Volume 32, Issue 5 (September 1987)
Justifiable Homicide: A Study of the Application of Nonculpable Deadly Force in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio, 1958–1982
Justifiable Homicides (JHs) which occurred during a quarter century in a metropolitan community were studied with respect to four points: characteristics of the victims; type of assailants, that is, civilians or law enforcement personnel (LEP); temporal patterns; and circumstances surrounding the fatal incident. Victims were overwhelmingly “city” males age 15 and older, with higher homicide rates for nonwhite victims. The great majority of the victims were slain by solitary civilians of their same race, one fourth of whom were women. Those slain by LEP were younger, more often unmarried, and less likely to be under the influence of alcohol. Long-term temporal patterns were reflected in changing rates of homicides in general. Rates of JH were compared and contrasted with those of culpable homicide (CH). Similarities were observed between overall and age-specific rates of JH and CH. Short-term temporal patterns were indicated by the time of occurrence of the homicidal incidents. Similarities were observed between JH and CH with respect to hour of day, day of week, and month of year. Most JHs by civilians occurred during or immediately following a quarrel. The majority of JHs by LEP were in self-defense when the victims were committing a crime or resisting arrest. The percent of JH in the overall homicide toll decreased throughout the 25-year interval. Inasmuch as JH by civilians remained a relatively constant fraction of all homicides until the final years of this study, the decline in percent of JH in the overall homicide toll largely reflects decreased JH by LEP.