Victim Impact Evidence

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Introduction

Victims’ rights have grown tremendously over time. Victim impact statements are now widely accepted and may take the form of written documents as part of the probation department’s presentence report furnished to the court. These statements allow a victim or the family of a victim to describe their loss, suffering, and trauma experienced from the crime. Many jurisdictions also allow for oral allocution which is the right to make a statement in open court prior to the court imposing sentence. The impact of these statements on courts, however, is questionable.

Although generally acceptable, there are due process limits to the admission of victim impact evidence. Such evidence that is considered unnecessarily duplicative or prejudicial may be excluded by trial courts. Trial judges must make the decision of allowing victim impact evidence after considering the relative value-added status of the victims.

For your main post, locate a case addressing the issue of victim impact statements, as was addressed in Payne v. Tennessee and respond to the following:

  • Summarize the facts and court holding in your selected victim impact evidence case.
  • Examine if such evidence is not included in the statutory aggravating factors in your jurisdiction.
  • Analyze the constitutional implications victim impact evidence may have in the context of a capital murder offense.
  • Explain whether you, as a criminal justice professional, feel that the Eighth Amendment should bar the admissibility of victim impact evidence during the penalty phase of a capital murder trial.
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