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Payne of Allowing Victim Impact Statements at Capital Sentencing Hearings

NCJ Number
Vanderbilt Law Review Volume: 45 Issue: 6 Dated: (November 1992) Pages: 1621- 1662
M I Oberlander
Date Published
42 pages
This article weighs the weaknesses of the current criminal justice system, which often focuses on the defendant and the crime to the detriment of the victim's needs, and the arguments of victims' rights advocates, who would initiate changes in the system to focus more attention on the victim.
The first section of the article presents an overview of the victims' rights movement and examines the resulting statutes that allow the admission of victim impact statements at sentencing proceedings. A review of Supreme Court death penalty jurisprudence notes how the Court has used these cases to determine the admissibility of victim impact statements at capital sentencing hearings. The author analyzes how the Supreme Court and various State courts have commented on Payne v. Tennessee, the most recent Supreme Court ruling on victim impact evidence. The author concludes that, while victim impact statements at capital sentencing hearings plays no role in legitimate theories of punishment, some courts have nonetheless used Payne to admit irrelevant evidence during capital sentencing. As a result, the continued admission of victim impact statements could lead to disparate sentencing of similarly situated defendants.