Victim's Rights in Capital Sentencing

Dissertation, University of Miami (1996)

Abstract
Recent Supreme Court decisions have had a direct bearing on the claim that victims and their families have particular rights during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial. In particular, it was argued in two cases that the family of a murder victim has this right during capital sentencing. The latest Supreme Court decision directly addressing the general use of Victim Evidence during sentencing upheld the use of Victim Impact Statements which describe effects of the murder on the family. This dissertation examines and argues against the use of Victim Impact Statements in the sentencing procedures during capital cases. References are made throughout to the two major Supreme Court decisions affecting the issue. Using the classical theories of Retributivism and Utilitarianism, as well as a contemporary use of utility referred to as Individual Vengeance Rationale, I show that the use of Victim Impact Statements is contrary to both criminal law assumptions of fairness as well as the classic theories of ethics discussed
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