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Victim Impact Statement: A Victim's Steam Valve

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Journal Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: (Fall 1992) Pages: 407- 424
G B Schneider
Date Published
18 pages
The U.S. Supreme Court's 1991 decision in Payne v. Tennessee accommodates the desires of victims' relatives to provide victim impact statements, thereby weakening the rights of defendants.
Contrary to the Court's previous positions, the Payne decision would allow the prosecutor or a murder victim's parents to provide testimony regarding the victim's personal characteristics and the emotional impact on the victim's family. Such statements shift the focus from the defendant's culpability to the victim's character. The defendant's inability to rebut the evidence in the victim impact statement further upsets due process rights. However, defendants should be punished for their crimes and the degree of culpability. Punishment should not be based the amount of anguish and harm caused to the victim's family or on the victim's personal qualities and value to society. The decision responds to pressures from emotionally inflamed survivors of victims at the expense of defendants' rights. Footnotes