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Victim Vices, Victim Voices, and Impact Statements: On the Place of Emotion and the Role of Restorative Justice in Capital Sentencing

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 49 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 603-626
Bruce A. Arrigo; Christopher R. Williams
Date Published
October 2003
24 pages
This article offers legal and empirical considerations for the use of victim impact statements (VIS) during the penalty phase of capital cases.
Victim impact statements are thought of as offering a voice to victims of crime who have been unwilling participants in the process of criminal justice. However, the efficacy and legitimacy of these statements during the penalty phase of capital cases has been questioned. Some argue that the emotional quality of VIS undermines the offender’s chance for a fair and impartial sentence. It has also been argued that such emotionally laden statements undermine a meaningful and restorative justice experience for victims. In order to examine the efficacy and legitimacy of including VIS during the sentencing phase of capital cases, the authors outline the principles of critical restorative justice and explore the legal and empirical limits of VIS. Society’s urge to punish offenders is contrasted to the compassion and forgiveness that are important dimensions of the sentencing process. The authors offer several policy considerations that are consistent with critical restorative justice and that address the need to give voice to victim experiences. Notes, references