To kill or not to kill? Lethal outcomes in injurious attacks

Richard B. Felson, Steven F. Messner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This research explores the utility of the notion of lethal intent for understanding the outcomes of injurious attacks. We suggest that assailants sometimes kill rather than merely injure victims to avoid either retaliation or criminal prosecution. We hypothesize that, for these tactical reasons, offenders will be more likely to kill when they have no accomplices, when their victims are male or black, and when the victim can identify them. These hypotheses are tested with a merged data set containing information on homicides and nonlethal victimizations involving robbery, rape, and pure assault. The results of multiple logistic regression analyses are largely consistent with theoretical expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-545
Number of pages27
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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