front cover of American Homicide
American Homicide
Randolph Roth
Harvard University Press, 2012

In American Homicide, Randolph Roth charts changes in the character and incidence of homicide in the U.S. from colonial times to the present. Roth argues that the United States is distinctive in its level of violence among unrelated adults—friends, acquaintances, and strangers. America was extraordinarily homicidal in the mid-seventeenth century, but it became relatively non-homicidal by the mid-eighteenth century, even in the slave South; and by the early nineteenth century, rates in the North and the mountain South were extremely low. But the homicide rate rose substantially among unrelated adults in the slave South after the American Revolution; and it skyrocketed across the United States from the late 1840s through the mid-1870s, while rates in most other Western nations held steady or fell.

That surge—and all subsequent increases in the homicide rate—correlated closely with four distinct phenomena: political instability; a loss of government legitimacy; a loss of fellow-feeling among members of society caused by racial, religious, or political antagonism; and a loss of faith in the social hierarchy. Those four factors, Roth argues, best explain why homicide rates have gone up and down in the United States and in other Western nations over the past four centuries, and why the United States is today the most homicidal affluent nation.

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CERTAIN OTHER COUNTRIES
Homicide, Gender, and National Identity in Late Nineteenth-Century England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales
CAROLYN CONLEY
The Ohio State University Press, 2007
Even though England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were under a common Parliament in the nineteenth century, cultural, economic, and historical differences led to very different values and assumptions about crime and punishment. For example, though the Scots were the most likely to convict accused killers, English, Welsh, and Irish killers were two and a half times more likely to be executed for their crimes. In Certain Other Countries, Carolyn A. Conley explores how the concepts of national identity and criminal violence influenced each other in the Victorian-era United Kingdom. It also addresses the differences among the nations as well as the ways that homicide trials illuminate the issues of gender, ethnicity, family, privacy, property, and class. Homicides reflect assumptions about the proper balance of power in various relationships. For example, Englishmen were ten times more likely to kill women they were courting than were men in the Celtic nations.         

By combining quantitative techniques in the analysis of over seven thousand cases, as well as careful and detailed readings of individual cases, the book exposes trends and patterns that might not have been evident in works using only one method. For instance, by examining all homicide trials rather than concentrating exclusively on a few highly celebrated ones, it becomes clear that most female killers were not viewed with particular horror, but were treated much like their male counterparts.

The conclusions offer challenges and correctives to existing scholarship on gender, ethnicity, class, and violence. The book also demonstrates that the Welsh, Scots, and English remained quite distinct long after their melding as Britons was announced and celebrated. By blending a study of trends in violent behavior with ideas about national identity, Conley brings together rich and hotly debated fields of modern history. This book will be valuable both for scholars of crime and violence as well as for those studying British history.
 
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Crime and Justice, Volume 43
Why Crime Rates Fall, and Why They Don't
Edited by Michael Tonry
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2015
Violent and property crime rates in all Western countries have been falling since the early and mid-1990s, after rising in the 1970s and 1980s. Few people have noticed the common patterns and fewer have attempted to understand or explain them. Yet the implications are essential for thinking about crime control and criminal justice policy more broadly. Crime rates in Canada and the United States, for example, have moved in parallel for 40 years, but Canada has neither increased its imprisonment rate nor adopted harsher criminal justice policies. The implication is that something other than mass imprisonment, zero-tolerance policing, and “three-strikes” laws explains why crime rates in our time are falling. The essays in this 43rd volume of Crime and Justice explore the possibilities cross-nationally. They document the common rises and falls in crime and look at possible explanations, including changes in sensitivity to violence generally and intimate violence in particular, macro-level changes in self-control, and structural and economic developments in modern states.

The contributors to this volume include Marcelo Aebi, Andromachi Tseloni, Eric Baumer, Manuel Eisner, Graham Farrell, Janne Kivivuori, Tapio Lappi-Seppälä, Suzy McElrath, Richard Rosenfeld, Rossella Selmini, Nick Tilley, and Kevin T. Wolff. 
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First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt
Jeffrey S. Adler
Harvard University Press, 2006

Between 1875 and 1920, Chicago's homicide rate more than quadrupled, making it the most violent major urban center in the United States--or, in the words of Lincoln Steffens, "first in violence, deepest in dirt." In many ways, however, Chicago became more orderly as it grew. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers poured into the city, yet levels of disorder fell and rates of drunkenness, brawling, and accidental death dropped. But if Chicagoans became less volatile and less impulsive, they also became more homicidal.

Based on an analysis of nearly six thousand homicide cases, First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt examines the ways in which industrialization, immigration, poverty, ethnic and racial conflict, and powerful cultural forces reshaped city life and generated soaring levels of lethal violence. Drawing on suicide notes, deathbed declarations, courtroom testimony, and commutation petitions, Jeffrey Adler reveals the pressures fueling murders in turn-of-the-century Chicago. During this era Chicagoans confronted social and cultural pressures powerful enough to trigger surging levels of spouse killing and fatal robberies. Homicide shifted from the swaggering rituals of plebeian masculinity into family life and then into street life.

From rage killers to the "Baby Bandit Quartet," Adler offers a dramatic portrait of Chicago during a period in which the characteristic elements of modern homicide in America emerged.

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Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985
Janet Colaizzi, with a foreword by Jonas R. Rappeport
University of Alabama Press, 1989

Homicidal insanity has remained a vexation to both the psychiatric and legal professions despite the panorama of scientific and social change during the past 200 years. The predominant opinion today among psychiatrists is that no correlation exists between dangerousness and specific mental disorders. But for generation after generation, psychiatrists have reported cases of insane homicide that were clinically similar. Although psychiatric theory changed and psychiatric nosology was inconsistent, the mental phenomena psychiatrists identified in such cases remained the same. The central thesis of Homicidal Insanity is that as psychiatric theory changed, psychiatrists regarded these phenomena variously as symptoms of mental disease or the disease in itself. It is possible to trace these phenomena throughout the history of Anglo-American psychiatric theory and practice. A secondary thesis of the book is that psychiatrists have used these phenomena as predictors and markers in the practical matters of preventing insane homicide and of testifying in the courts to defend the irresponsible and expose the culpable.

For 200 years, scientific and philosophical disagreement raised controversy and brought the issues to public attention. Still, to this day no rational method exists to discriminate the dangerous from the harmless in matters of involuntary commitment, nor insanity from crime in the courts.
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Homicide, Race, and Justice in the American West, 1880-1920
Clare V. McKanna
University of Arizona Press, 1997
In a chilling scene in the film Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood as the gunman stands over a wounded Gene Hackman, the sheriff, aiming a rifle at his head. "I don't deserve this, to die like this," says Hackman. Eastwood replies, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it," cocks his rifle, and fires point blank at his helpless victim.

This scenario dramatically brings home to the viewer what historians have long debated and hundreds of other films and books suggest: the turn-of-the-century West was a violent time and place. Ranchers, miners, deputy sheriffs, teenagers and old men, occasionally even housewives and mothers found themselves at the business end of a shotgun or a .38 revolver. Yet, since western historians tend to portray violence as essentially episodic--frontier gunfights, range wars, vigilante movements, and the like--solid data has been hard to come by.

As a beginning point for actually measuring lethal violence and assessing the administration of justice, here at last is a detailed and well-documented study of homicide in the American West. Comparing data from representative areas--Douglas County, Nebraska; Las Animas County, Colorado; and Gila County, Arizona--this book reveals a level of violence far greater than many historians have believed, even surpassing eastern cities like New York and Boston.

Clashing cultures and transient populations, a boomtown mentality, easy availability of alcohol and firearms: these and many other factors come under scrutiny as catalysts in the violence that permeated the region. By comparing homicide data, including coroner's inquests, indictments, plea bargains, and sentences across both racial and regional lines, the book also offers persuasive evidence that criminal justice systems of the Old West were weighted heavily in favor of defendants who were white and against those who were African American, Native American, or Mexican.

Packed with information, this is a book for students and scholars of western history, social history, criminology, and justice studies. Western history buffs will be captivated by colorful anecdotes about the real West, where guns could and did blaze over anything from love trysts to vendettas to too much foam on the beer. From whatever perspective, all readers are sure to find here a well-constructed framework for understanding the West as it was and for interpreting the region as it moves into the future.
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JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE
BATTERED WOMEN, SELF-DEFENSE AND THE LAW
CYNTHIA K. GILLESPIE
The Ohio State University Press, 1990

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Making a Killing
Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera
Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, with Georgina Guzmán
University of Texas Press, 2010

Since 1993, more than five hundred women and girls have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez across the border from El Paso, Texas. At least a third have been sexually violated and mutilated as well. Thousands more have been reported missing and remain unaccounted for. The crimes have been poorly investigated and have gone unpunished and unresolved by Mexican authorities, thus creating an epidemic of misogynist violence on an increasingly globalized U.S.-Mexico border.

This book, the first anthology to focus exclusively on the Juárez femicides, as the crimes have come to be known, compiles several different scholarly "interventions" from diverse perspectives, including feminism, Marxism, critical race theory, semiotics, and textual analysis. Editor Alicia Gaspar de Alba shapes a multidisciplinary analytical framework for considering the interconnections between gender, violence, and the U.S.-Mexico border. The essays examine the social and cultural conditions that have led to the heinous victimization of women on the border—from globalization, free trade agreements, exploitative maquiladora working conditions, and border politics, to the sexist attitudes that pervade the social discourse about the victims. The book also explores the evolving social movement that has been created by NGOs, mothers' organizing efforts, and other grassroots forms of activism related to the crimes. Contributors include U.S. and Mexican scholars and activists, as well as personal testimonies of two mothers of femicide victims.

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More or Less Dead
Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico
Alice Driver
University of Arizona Press, 2015
In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, people disappear, their bodies dumped in deserted city lots or jettisoned in the unforgiving desert. All too many of them are women.

More or Less Dead analyzes how such violence against women has been represented in news media, books, films, photography, and art. Alice Driver argues that the various cultural reports often express anxiety or criticism about how women traverse and inhabit the geography of Ciudad Juárez and further the idea of the public female body as hypersexualized. Rather than searching for justice, the various media—art, photography, and even graffiti—often reuse victimized bodies in sensationalist, attention-grabbing ways. In order to counteract such views, local activists mark the city with graffiti and memorials that create a living memory of the violence and try to humanize the victims of these crimes.

The phrase “more or less dead” was coined by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño in his novel 2666, a penetrating fictional study of Juárez. Driver explains that victims are “more or less dead” because their bodies are never found or aren’t properly identified, leaving families with an uncertainty lasting for decades—or forever.

The author’s clear, precise journalistic style tackles the ethics of representing feminicide victims in Ciudad Juárez. Making a distinction between the words “femicide” (the murder of girls or women) and “feminicide” (murder as a gender-driven event), one of her interviewees says, “Women are killed for being women, and they are victims of masculine violence because they are women. It is a crime of hate against the female gender. These are crimes of power.”
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Murder in New Orleans
The Creation of Jim Crow Policing
Jeffrey S. Adler
University of Chicago Press, 2019

New Orleans in the 1920s and 1930s was a deadly place. In 1925, the city’s homicide rate was six times that of New York City and twelve times that of Boston. Jeffrey S. Adler has explored every homicide recorded in New Orleans between 1925 and 1940—over two thousand in all—scouring police and autopsy reports, old interviews, and crumbling newspapers. More than simply quantifying these cases, Adler places them in larger contexts—legal, political, cultural, and demographic—and emerges with a tale of racism, urban violence, and vicious policing that has startling relevance for today.

Murder in New Orleans shows that whites were convicted of homicide at far higher rates than blacks leading up to the mid-1920s. But by the end of the following decade, this pattern had reversed completely, despite an overall drop in municipal crime rates. The injustice of this sharp rise in arrests was compounded by increasingly brutal treatment of black subjects by the New Orleans police department. Adler explores other counterintuitive trends in violence, particularly how murder soared during the flush times of the Roaring Twenties, how it plummeted during the Great Depression, and how the vicious response to African American crime occurred even as such violence plunged in frequency—revealing that the city’s cycle of racial policing and punishment was connected less to actual patterns of wrongdoing than to the national enshrinement of Jim Crow. Rather than some hyperviolent outlier, this Louisiana city was a harbinger of the endemic racism at the center of today’s criminal justice state. Murder in New Orleans lays bare how decades-old crimes, and the racially motivated cruelty of the official response, have baleful resonance in the age of Black Lives Matter.

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Murder Scenes
Normality, Deviance, and Criminal Violence in Weimar Berlin
Sace Elder
University of Michigan Press, 2010
"Sace Elder has exhaustively researched both newspaper and other popular and professional treatments of murder cases and archival sources of police investigations and trials in Berlin between 1919 and 1931. Murder Scenes is an innovative and insightful exploration of the ways in which these investigations and trials, and the publicity surrounding them, reflected and shaped changing notions of normality and deviance in Weimar-era Berlin."
---Kenneth Ledford, Case Western Reserve University
Using police reports, witness statements, newspaper accounts, and professional publications, Murder Scenes examines public and private responses to homicidal violence in Berlin during the tumultuous years of the Weimar era. Criminology and police science, both of which became increasingly professionalized over the period, sought to control and contain the blurring of these boundaries but could only do so by relying on a public that was willing to participate in the project. These Weimar developments in police practice in Berlin had important implications for what Elder identifies as an emerging culture of mutual surveillance that was successful both because and in spite of the incompleteness of the system police sought to construct, a culture that in many ways anticipated the culture of denunciation in the Nazi period. In addition to historians of Weimar, modern Germany, and modern Europe, German studies and criminal justice scholars will find this book of interest.
Sace Elder is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Illinois University.
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Murder Town, USA
Homicide, Structural Violence, and Activism in Wilmington
Yasser Arafat Payne
Rutgers University Press, 2023
Far too many poor Black communities struggle with gun violence and homicide. The result has been the unnatural contortion of Black families and the inter-generational perpetuation of social chaos and untimely death. Young people are repeatedly ripped away from life by violence, while many men are locked away in prisons. In neighborhoods like those of Wilmington, Delaware, residents routinely face the pressures of violence, death, and incarceration. Murder Town, USA is thus a timely ethnography with an innovative structure: the authors helped organize fifteen residents formerly involved with the streets and/or the criminal justice system to document the relationship between structural opportunity and experiences with violence in Wilmington's Eastside and Southbridge neighborhoods. 
Earlier scholars offered rich cultural analysis of violence in low-income Black communities, and yet this literature has mostly conceptualized violence through frameworks of personal responsibility or individual accountability. And even if acknowledging the pressure of structural inequality, most earlier researchers describe violence as the ultimate result of some moral failing, a propensity for crime, and the notion of helplessness. Instead, in Murder Town USA, Payne, Hitchens, and Chamber, along with their collaborative team of street ethnographers, instead offer a radical re-conceptualization of violence in low-income Black communities by describing the penchant for violence and involvement in crime overall to be a logical, "resilient" response to the perverse context of structural inequality.
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Murder Was Not a Crime
Homicide and Power in the Roman Republic
By Judy E. Gaughan
University of Texas Press, 2009

Embarking on a unique study of Roman criminal law, Judy Gaughan has developed a novel understanding of the nature of social and political power dynamics in republican government. Revealing the significant relationship between political power and attitudes toward homicide in the Roman republic, Murder Was Not a Crime describes a legal system through which families (rather than the government) were given the power to mete out punishment for murder.

With implications that could modify the most fundamental beliefs about the Roman republic, Gaughan's research maintains that Roman criminal law did not contain a specific enactment against murder, although it had done so prior to the overthrow of the monarchy. While kings felt an imperative to hold monopoly over the power to kill, Gaughan argues, the republic phase ushered in a form of decentralized government that did not see itself as vulnerable to challenge by an act of murder. And the power possessed by individual families ensured that the government would not attain the responsibility for punishing homicidal violence.

Drawing on surviving Roman laws and literary sources, Murder Was Not a Crime also explores the dictator Sulla's "murder law," arguing that it lacked any government concept of murder and was instead simply a collection of earlier statutes repressing poisoning, arson, and the carrying of weapons. Reinterpreting a spectrum of scenarios, Gaughan makes new distinctions between the paternal head of household and his power over life and death, versus the power of consuls and praetors to command and kill.

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Prayers for the People
Homicide and Humanity in the Crescent City
Rebecca Louise Carter
University of Chicago Press, 2019
“Grieve well and you grow stronger.” Anthropologist Rebecca Louise Carter heard this wisdom over and over while living in post-Katrina New Orleans, where everyday violence disproportionately affects Black communities. What does it mean to grieve well? How does mourning strengthen survivors in the face of ongoing threats to Black life?
 
Inspired by ministers and guided by grieving mothers who hold birthday parties for their deceased sons, Prayers for the People traces the emergence of a powerful new African American religious ideal at the intersection of urban life, death, and social and spiritual change. Carter frames this sensitive ethnography within the complex history of structural violence in America—from the legacies of slavery to free but unequal citizenship, from mass incarceration and overpolicing to social abandonment and the unequal distribution of goods and services. And yet Carter offers a vision of restorative kinship by which communities of faith work against the denial of Black personhood as well as the violent severing of social and familial bonds. A timely directive for human relations during a contentious time in America’s history, Prayers for the People is also a hopeful vision of what an inclusive, nonviolent, and just urban society could be.
 
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front cover of Race And Homicide In Nineteenth-Century California
Race And Homicide In Nineteenth-Century California
Clare V. McKanna
University of Nevada Press, 2007

Nineteenth-century California was a society in turmoil, with a rapidly growing population, booming mining camps, insufficient or nonexistent law-enforcement personnel, and a large number of ethnic groups with differing attitudes toward law and personal honor. Violence, including murder, was common, and legal responses varied broadly. Available now for the first time in paperback, Race and Homicide in Nineteenth-Century California examines coroners’ inquest reports, court case files, prison registers, and other primary and printed sources to analyze patterns of homicide and the state’s embryonic justice system. Author Clare V. McKanna discovers that the nature of crimes varied with the ethnicity of perpetrators and victims, as did the conduct and results of trials and sentencing patterns. He presents specific case studies and a vivid portrait of an unruly society in flux. Enhanced with testimony from contemporary sources and illustrated with period photographs, this study richly portrays a frontier society where the law was neither omnipotent nor impartial.

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Running Amok
An Historical Inquiry
John C. Spores
Ohio University Press, 1988
Amok, one of the few Malay words commonly appearing in English, names a syndrome of unpredictable and indiscriminate homicidal behavior with suicidal intent. In tracing the development of this behavioral pattern, Spores examines historical data, including frequently colorful colonialist accounts of such episodes, from British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies during the period 1800–1925.

Spores presents a basic etiological distinction between reactive-motivated and a spontaneous, unmotivated amok; the one an intentional act capable of establishing or restoring dignity and self-respect; the other a result of organic disturbance. He also explores the social-psychological dynamics of engagement in the two types of solitary amok and suggests possible behavioral chains. Further, his study demonstrates the impact of social forces and processes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which significantly altered factors in traditional Malay society important in generating expressions of solitary amok.

Running amok demonstrates the utility of bringing historical data to bear on the examination of specific social phenomena, particularly suggesting that the understanding of some present-day forms of mental disorder or other aberrant or deviant behavior can be facilitated and enriched through such analysis.
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Taking Stock of Homicide
Trends, Emerging Themes, and Research Challenges
Edited by Karen F. Parker, Richard Stansfield, and Ashley M. Mancik
Temple University Press, 2024
Taking Stock of Homicide provides a critical look at homicide, offering a comprehensive review of the major areas of homicide research, including topics largely unexplored in the literature, such as qualitative and historical accounts.  

Featuring leading scholars, this volume is organized around key themes and areas that reflect major contemporary trends and patterns in criminological literature. Chapters consider fundamentals such as data collection, sources, and histories; structural dynamics, including methodologies and fieldwork plus factors involving race and public health; the circumstances, types, and variations in homicide, from intimate partner violence to gangs, drugs, and firearms; as well as the prevention of and responses to homicide.  

An essential state-of-the-discipline examination, Taking Stock of Homicide expands our knowledge while offering a toolkit for how to conduct future research on this serious, violent crime.

Contributors: Mark Berg, Laura Boisten, Anthony Braga, Fiona Brookman, Shytierra Gaston, Veronica Valencia Gonzalez, Elizabeth Griffiths, Chris Guerra, John Hipp, John Jarvis, Helen Jones, Sharon Jones-Eversley, Jungmyung Kim, Kenneth Land, Marieke Liem, Michael Light, Xiaoshuang Iris Luo, Amy Magnus, Patricia McCall, Erin Orrick, Alex Piquero, William Pridemore, David Pyrooz, Arnaldo Rabolini, Kasey Ragan, Wendy Regoeczi, Johnny Rice II, Jacqueline Rhoden-Trader, Ethan Rogers, Meghan Rodgers, Randolph Roth, Jose Antonio Sanchez, Daniel Semenza, James Tuttle, Jolien van Breen, Kirk Williams, and the editors
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That Guy Wolf Dancing
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Michigan State University Press, 2014
From one of the writers of the twentieth-century Native American Literary Renaissance comes a remarkable tale about how to acknowledge the past and take a chance on the future. Rooted in tribal-world consciousness, That Guy Wolf Dancing is the story of a young tribal wolf-man becoming a part of his not-sonatural world of non-tribal people. Twenty-something Philip Big Pipe disappears from an unsettled life he can hardly tolerate and ends up in an off-reservation town. When he leaves, he doesn’t tell anyone where he is going or what his plans, if he has any, might be. Having never taken himself too seriously, he now faces a world that feels very foreign to him. As he struggles to adapt to the modern universe, Philip, ever a “wolf dancer,” must improvise, this time to a sound others provide for him. Like the wolf, Philip sometimes feels hunted, outrun, verging on extinction. Only by moving rhythmically in a dissident, dangerous, and iconic world can Philip Big Pipe let go of the past and craft a new future.
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Violence and Activism at the Border
Gender, Fear, and Everyday Life in Ciudad Juarez
By Kathleen Staudt
University of Texas Press, 2008

Between 1993 and 2003, more than 370 girls and women were murdered and their often-mutilated bodies dumped outside Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, Mexico. The murders have continued at a rate of approximately thirty per year, yet law enforcement officials have made no breakthroughs in finding the perpetrator(s). Drawing on in-depth surveys, workshops, and interviews of Juárez women and border activists, Violence and Activism at the Border provides crucial links between these disturbing crimes and a broader history of violence against women in Mexico. In addition, the ways in which local feminist activists used the Juárez murders to create international publicity and expose police impunity provides a unique case study of social movements in the borderlands, especially as statistics reveal that the rates of femicide in Juárez are actually similar to other regions of Mexico.

Also examining how non-governmental organizations have responded in the face of Mexican law enforcement's "normalization" of domestic violence, Staudt's study is a landmark development in the realm of global human rights.

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Worse Than Death
The Dallas Nightclub Murders and the Texas Multiple Murder Law
Gary M. Lavergne
University of North Texas Press, 2003

front cover of You're Dead—So What?
You're Dead—So What?
Media, Police, and the Invisibility of Black Women as Victims of Homicide
Cheryl L. Neely
Michigan State University Press, 2015
Though numerous studies have been conducted regarding perceived racial bias in newspaper reporting of violent crimes, few studies have focused on the intersections of race and gender in determining the extent and prominence of this coverage, and more specifically how the lack of attention to violence against women of color reinforces their invisibility in the social structure. This book provides an empirical study of media and law enforcement bias in reporting and investigating homicides of African American women compared with their white counterparts. The author discusses the symbiotic relationship between media coverage and the response from law enforcement to victims of color, particularly when these victims are reported missing and presumed to be in danger by their loved ones. Just as the media are effective in helping to increase police response, law enforcement officials reach out to news outlets to solicit help from the public in locating a missing person or solving a murder. However, a deeply troubling disparity in reporting the disappearance and homicides of female victims reflects racial inequality and institutionalized racism in the social structure that need to be addressed. It is this disparity this important study seeks to solve.
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