|The "dark figure of crime" has been described in the literature by criminologists and sociologists alike, and has largely been recognized to represent crimes that are undetected or underreported to police. Underreported crimes include rape and domestic violence. As for the case of undetected crimes, a person may not even know that they had been victimized, for example, attributing that "missing wallet" to having "misplaced it". In the context of medicolegal death investigation, underreporting "suicide" as a manner of death has also been discussed. Although suicide rates have been challenged from time to time, these challenges have primarily been in the form of suggesting that medicolegal officers intentionally render a verdict other than "suicide". Reasons offered may include the desire to spare an already grieving family from social embarrassment or to make it possible for a beneficiary to collect on life insurance. The rates of homicide, however, have not been placed under such scrutiny. When a verdict of "homicide" is rendered as the manner of death, the verdict becomes a "fact" and is not challenged as being influenced by social factors. Members in society no longer recognize that the verdict "homicide" was socially produced and lose sight of the social factors that influence the verdict. This paper will question the "truthfulness" of medicolegal death statistics. I will suggest that the information used in the calculation of mortality rates be questioned. I will maintain that homicide rates are turned into "fact" through use by the scientific community and are largely taken by the scientific community as being error-free. Homicide statistics are not generally recognized, if at all, as having any errors, not even of the statistical kind. I will argue that because social factors influence medicolegal death investigation and it is from the medicolegal officer's office whereby a manner of death is declared a "homicide", that variation in homicide rates will be inevitable. I maintain that homicide statistics are socially constructed.
(Return to Program Resources)