Criminal Justice Outcomes in Intimate and Non-intimate Partner Homicide Cases

3. THE PRESENT STUDY (cont'd)

3.2 Data sources

Data analyzed in this report were collected in two different stages. Data on homicides from 1997 to 2002 were collected as part of this research project whereas data on homicides from 1974 to 1996 were collected for an earlier project.[7] By merging these two data sets, this sample includes all homicides known to and recorded by legal and medical officials in Toronto and resolved through the criminal justice system between and including 1974 to 2002 - a period of almost 30 years. Crown Attorney files were the primary source of information because the research focus was the criminal justice processing of and outcomes in homicide cases.[8] A standardized coding sheet was used (see coding sheet, Appendix A). Information was collected on about 100 variables for each case[9], including characteristics of the accused and the victim, the circumstances surrounding the homicide incident, and the criminal justice process. These variables will be discussed in more detail below.

From 1974 through 2002, a total of 1,612 homicides were recorded in the City of Toronto.[10] Of these, 288 remain unsolved; that is, no accused has yet to be identified. For the 1,324 solved homicides, 1,416 accused persons were identified of which 1,137 were charged for their crimes and processed through the adult criminal court system. In the remaining 279 cases, the accused committed suicide immediately after the homicide, the case was cleared otherwise (e.g. accused persons died or were killed before case was resolved), warrants were still outstanding for arrest or the case was still before the court.[11] Among the group of 1,137 accused persons, Table 3.1 shows that 230 (20 percent) were charged with killing an intimate partner and 907 (80 percent) were charged with killing victims with whom they shared more distant relationships. These numbers are consistent with the most recent national figures that indicate approximately one out of every five homicides involve intimate partners (CCJS, 2003a). Focusing on this group of accused persons, this study examines patterns in criminal justice responses to homicide in one urban jurisdiction, comparing outcomes for those accused of killing intimate partners to outcomes for those accused of killing victims with whom they shared more distant relationships.

Table 3.1 : Accused Persons in Toronto Homicide Cases, Total Sample, Toronto, Ontario, 1974-2002 (N=1,137)
Type of accused Total Number Total Percent
N %
Accused persons in intimate partner homicide 230 20
Accused persons in non-intimate partner homicide 907 80
All accused persons 1,137 100

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