Death and Violence on the Reservation: Homicide, Family Violence, and Suicide in American Indian Populations

By Ronet Bachman | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Trends in
American Indian Homicide

How common is homicide in the American Indian population? How does the American Indian homicide rate differ from homicide rates for Whites and Blacks? This chapter will answer these questions by investigating national incidence rates and trends of homicide for American Indians, Blacks and Whites. This chapter gives the reader a general overview of what relationships and precipitating circumstances characterize American Indian homicide at the national level. Before examining national incidence rates, however, it is first important to define exactly what homicide means for the purposes of this chapter.

Homicide is the killing of one human being by another without legal justification or excuse. As a legal category, homicide can be criminal or noncriminal. Criminal homicide is generally referred to as first-degree murder when one person causes the death of another with premeditation and intent. It is usually considered second-degree murder when death is caused with malice and intent, but without premeditation. Voluntary manslaughter involves intent to inflict bodily injury, but without deliberate intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is reckless or negligent killing without intent to harm. Noncriminal homicide includes excusable homicide, which occurs primarily in cases of self-defense, and justifiable homicide (e.g., the killing of an individual by a police officer in the line of duty) ( Uniform Crime Reports, 1990).

Anyone who attempts an empirical analysis of homicide faces operational difficulty simply because there is a great variety of situations and motives behind aggregate homicide rates. The situations range from brutal killings that occur in the course of a trivial quarrel and crimes of passion to premeditated and skillfully planned murders. Further, what

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