What’s your opinion of the use of victim impact statements in sentencing

1. What’s your opinion of the use of victim impact statements in sentencing?2. Hypothetically speaking, which path is more attractive to you, and why? And if you choose defense attorney, would you prefer to work in private practice or to become a public defender? Just answer these two questions. Anywhere from 140-170 words each
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Discussion Exercise: Victim impact statements
COLLAPSE
As I said when talking about the use of victim impact statements in class, the
consideration of such statements during sentencing is a fairly standard part of the
process nowadays – although not without controversy.
Remember, the information in such statements would be considered by a
sentencing judge (or sentencing jury) as being among the “aggravating
circumstances” that illustrate why the defendant it deserving of
harsher punishment (whereas it would be up to the defense to present
information on “mitigating circumstances” that would make the defendant worthy
of mercy or more lenient treatment in sentencing).
One critique of the introduction of (and reliance upon) such statements in
sentencing hearings involves the situation of criminal homicide cases – the
implication that, if there are family members or intimates (i.e., secondary
victims) willing to submit such a statement, this implies that the deceased
(i.e., primary victim) was somehow valued more than in cases where there
is no one willing or available to submit such a statement. The significance of
this is that it sends a message that not all life is valued equally in society, when if the scales of justice were totally objective – offenders would be punished
equally based on the severity of the offense, not the degree to which the
deceased is missed or loved. (And, for the record – available research on
sentencing decisions indicates that victim impact statements CAN affect the
severity of the sentence, although anecdotally there are prosecutors who
disagree and say that sentences are likely a foregone conclusion even before the
presentation of such statements.)
Another critique is that the reading of such statements in court injects an
unnecessary and distracting element of emotionalism into what should be
a completely objective and dignified sentencing hearing.
I showed you in class a few different victim impact statements; they all invoked a
lot of emotion and feeling. There have been some cases in which the individuals
reading a statement in court became so overcome with anger and grief that they
had to be physically restrained from attacking the defendant!
What’s your opinion of the use of victim
impact statements in sentencing?

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