Should victim impact statements be considered in criminal cases or do they just add unnecessary emotionalism?
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Victim impact statements are a relatively new addition to our criminal justice system. After decades of locking criminals up -and ignoring the victim- we moved to a criminal justice system that gave great concern to the criminal's rights -while ignoring the victim. In recent decades we have attempted to find a middle ground. We are still locking criminals up and taking care to not violate their rights - but we also now give consideration to the victim. We used to view the victim of a crime to be society as a whole; the criminal violated society's laws. We now see beyond that general victim to the particular victim. The person who was specifically violated by the criminal is now being given consideration in our criminal justice system. So while a victim impact statement may get emotional, it is important for the judge and jury to see the "real" victim and the impact the criminal act had upon this person's life. One of the major goals of our correctional system is to provide restitution to the victim. Without knowing the extent of the damage to the victim, it is difficult to determine the extent of the punishment that will bring the victim restitution.
I would agree that it adds emotion to the proceedings but would not say that it is unnecessary emotion. As the above post stated it is important for the judge to see the victim and how the victim was affected by the crime committed against them.
This is a really interesting question. Sometimes legal proceedings do get bogged down in facts and rules of law, and lose sight of the human element. On the other hand, it is also possible for cases to get too caught up in "character witnesses" and lose sight of the crime committed. When it comes to sentencing, however, I do think it is important to remember how the crime had an impact on the victim.
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