Who would kill someone for an ATM card and a joyride in a SUV?

This question has lead to a lot of loopy theories concerning the death of Eve Carson. The first is the idea that her murder was some arranged “hit” by a former lover. The second involves gangs and some vague initiation ritual. While there is absolutely no evidence supporting the former theory, the latter theory appears to be argued solely by the facts that Atwater and Lovette are young, black and from Durham (ignore the Houston Astros hat, which points to two different gangs, opposed to each other). Both theories border on moral panics, and are flawed because they are borne of the erroneous assumption that people do not take such high risks for such a marginal return.

Don’t they? If you are a proponent of crime deterrence theory then you believe that criminals are rational actors in a process wherein they weigh the costs and benefits of their actions before committing a crime. If you offer a big enough deterrent (Three-Strikes law say), criminals will weigh the options and think twice about stealing a sandwich in exchange for life in prison.

But in their analysis of the 1980s Rand Inmate Survey data, researchers Wilson and Abrahamse determined that burglars and robbers do not act on the basis of a rational decision model. Wilson and Abrahamse found that these criminals consistently over-estimated the financial rewards of crimes, underestimated the consequences, and perceived no positive rewards for a law abiding way of life. These findings are supported by the criminologist, Scott Decker whose research has consistently demonstrated that burglars are not “significantly affected by the severity of the threatened penalty on its own”.

In this light, there was no rational process involved in stealing the victim’s car, using her debit card, getting caught on film, and ultimately murdering Eve Carson for a very paltry return. These are the actions of reckless offenders, with a history of irrational behavior, who gave little thought to the consequences of their actions.


(with a nod to Samuel Walker)


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