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date: 24 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the development of homicide law in England and the United States. It begins by arguing that homicide law plays an important role in vindicating victims and legitimizing a rule of law. It then exposes a transformation in the law’s conception of homicide from a crime of malicious killing to one of culpably causing a fatal result. This transformation reflected the influence of a utilitarian reform movement that evaluated all conduct in terms of its expected cost, rather than the motives or character of the actor. The chapter compares contemporary homicide law in England and the United States, and concludes that both continue to condition guilt on character judgments. This is particularly apparent in the English law of joint venture liability and in U.S. death penalty law.

Keywords: homicide, criminal law, malicious killing, culpable causing, homicide law, William Blackstone, Model Penal Code, death penalty, Homicide Act 1957, judgment

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