Kenna Quinet has spent 35 years of her life studying homicide. “As long as there have been human beings, there have been homicides,” she says.
She’s gathered data and case files for decades, worked on cold case investigations, and recently became a certified medicolegal death investigator. She and her co-authors literally just re-wrote the book on homicide, with the fifth edition of “The Will to Kill” textbook set to release in April.
Now, after a nearly five-year hiatus, she’s bringing back one of SPEA’s most popular courses for the Fall 2018 semester. “Murder in America” takes an in-depth look at homicide laws, data, theory, and intervention strategies. The class also focuses on different types of homicide: domestic, serial, mass, medical, school, and cults.
Registration for the fall semester opens March 19th, but students can set up appointments to meet with advisors now. While the topic may seem dark, enrollment regularly bursts at the seams, often times having 100 students in the 3-credit-hour class.
“Homicide fascinates us,” Quinet says.
She attributes some of the fascination to a growing media industry focused on homicides. However, Quinet is quick to point out that her course does not glorify murder. Instead, it debunks many myths associated with the topic.
“We really go at it as science,” she says. “This is a behavior that we want to prevent. Let’s analyze cases in detail. Let’s talk about the causes. Let’s talk about real solutions and put it all within a social context.”
Part of that context is helping students understand how to think critically about what they see and hear in the news. The course touches upon high-profile cases, such as the Jodi Arias case, but also looks back at the nation’s homicide history.
“I think students are really surprised when they see that the homicide rate now is about half of what it was in the 1980s,” she says. “Sometimes I tell them the details of the case. Then I give them the date and it was 1872. They’re flabbergasted. It sounds like something that could’ve happened today.”
Quinet warns that students should be aware that the class is intense.
“This is a homicide class and I don’t pull punches on case details,” she explains. “It can be difficult material.”
Quinet’s goal is for students to leave her class with a realistic and practical understanding of how much homicide there is, homicide law, the causes, and investigation strategies.
“How can we sort our facts and explain why there’s so much homicide in the United States or in a certain neighborhood? Then we take another set of tools and decide what to do about it,” she says.
Those solutions often involve collaboration between a variety of fields. Quinet says whether they’re in data collection, policy implementation, or working with victims and offenders, the course draws students from different majors.
“I keep that in mind that there are not just future SPEA students coming out of ‘Murder in America,’” she says. “I think there are a lot of students across campus who realize at some level they’re going to have to confront issues of violence.”
“But they leave the class educated,” she adds. “They know the facts now so I’m sending them out there to wage war on homicide.”