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Section I: Discussion
Victim impact statements consist of written or oral information about how the crime impacted the victim and the victim’s family. These emotion-filled statements are usually offered in an attempt to sway the sentencing court to impose a severe sentence on the convicted offender, although pleas for leniency do occur from time to time. Today, every state permits victim impact statements as part of the sentencing process.
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The following video shows two victim impact statements. Watch the video and then answer the questions that follow.
200 words or more total word count for Questions 1-3:
1. Are there ever circumstances in which victim impact statements are not allowed? Explain.
2. Does research show that victim impact statements have a beneficial effect on those making them? Does research show that victim impact statements have an impact on sentencing? Explain.
3. Overall, do you think victim impact statements correctly allow victims a voice in the criminal justice process or do the statements bring in unnecessary emotionalism?
Section II: Complete
In 500 words or more explain the practical hardships that victims and witnesses face when participating in the criminal justice process? Describe three types of programs/initiatives designed to aid victims in coping with the criminal justice process.
250 words or more:
Discuss the characteristics of the typical felony defendant. How do these characteristics differ from those of the typical courtroom work group member? What might be the consequences of these different characteristics between the defendant and work group members?
250 words or more:
In what ways is the prior relationship a victim has with his/her offender important to the court process? Further, in Payne v. Tennessee (1991), the United States Supreme Court overruled stare decisis and allowed certain evidence to come in at the sentencing stage. Explain why the Court overruled precedent and the type of evidence now allowed at the sentencing state. Do researchers generally find that this type of evidence makes a difference?