Degrees of emotion: Judicial responses to victim impact statements

Author(s)Schuster, Mary Lay and Propen, Amy
Title Degrees of emotion: Judicial responses to victim impact statements
Source Law, Culture and the Humanities, February 2010; vol. 6, 1: pp. 75-104
Date 2010
Document type Journal article
Coverage Minnesota, USA
Summary This study examined how judges respond to victim impact statements (VIS) and their experience of handling emotion in the courtroom. Interviews were conducted with 22 judges in Minnesota and 17 sentencing hearings were observed. The principles of emotionology were used to interpret the results of the interviews and the observations in the courtroom. The goal was to place judicial reactions to VIS within a cultural as well as a legal context and to point to emotions as expressed in a particular context. For example, in regards to grief the judges varied in their responses to expressions of grief in imposing sentences but many stated that they tolerated them as long as they were not excessive and might refer to a victim's grief when they were delivering a sentence. A theme that emerged was the need to maintain control and authority in the courtroom. The authors suggest future research is needed in this area as well as judicial education around VIS.
Keywords Victim impact statements; court; judges
Topic Victim impact statements