Restoration, retribution, or revenge? Time shifting victim impact statements in American judicial process

 

Author(s)Pearl, Tracy Hresko
Title Restoration, retribution, or revenge? Time shifting victim impact statements in American judicial process
Source Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper Series,August 2013, Research Paper No. 13-15, pp 1-25
Date 2013
Document type Journal article
Coverage USA
Summary This article examines the role and purpose of victim impact statements (VIS) in the American judicial process. The history of victim impact statements is examined, explaining how they reached their current position in the judicial process. The benefits of VIS are discussed, including allowing a formal role for victims in the criminal justice system, the psychological benefits to victims, such as coping and closure, providing a sense of fairness to the victims, and providing an increased level of satisfaction with the criminal justice system. The problems with VIS are also considered, such as inconsistency in sentencing, bias and prejudice within the VIS, selective admissions and irrefutability. The author concludes that the constitutional rights of the defendant are compromised when VIS are admitted in a criminal proceeding. A shift from the current retributive system of justice to a restorative justice framework is suggested. The solution proposed is to allow VIS in an open court in front of a judge, but only after both the trial and sentencing of the offender have been completed. In addition offenders should be given the opportunity to offer statements of remorse after they have been sentenced and both VIS and offender statements should not be reviewable on appeal.
Keywords Victim impact statement; VIS; criminal justice system; defendant rights; retribution 
Topic Victim impact statements; restorative justice