Objectives To determine whether convictions and sentencing differ between child abuse homicide cases and adult homicide cases and to identify characteristics of the victim, suspect, or crime that influence conviction and sentencing results.
Design Retrospective case review.
Setting Homicide data abstracted from the National Violent Death Reporting System in Utah.
Participants All deaths classified as homicide in Utah between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2007.
Main Exposure Judicial processing of homicide cases for conviction and sentencing results.
Main Outcome Measures Conviction rate, level of felony conviction, and severity of sentencing for suspects of child abuse homicide vs adult homicide.
Results Utah had 373 homicide victims during the study period; 52 cases were child abuse homicide. Among 211 homicide cases with an identified suspect, conviction rates for child abuse homicide (88.2%) and adult homicide (83.0%) were similar (risk ratio, 1.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.8-1.4). There were no significant differences in level of felony conviction (adjusted risk ratio, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.4-1.3) or severity of sentencing (adjusted risk ratio, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.5-1.5) for suspects of child abuse homicide vs adult homicide. Among child abuse homicide cases, no demographic factor was significantly associated with felony conviction results.
Conclusion Suspects of child abuse homicide are convicted at a rate similar to that of suspects of adult homicide and receive similar levels of felony conviction and severity of sentencing.