How and Why the U.S. Supreme Court developed the law governing the use of “Victim Impact Statements” (VIS)?
There is no definitive dividing line between the how and why the U.S. Supreme Court developed the VIS laws since both questions overlap. In the Capital cases of Booth v. Maryland, Gathers v. South Carolina and Payne v. Tennessee the U.S. Supreme Court were tasked to decide if the VIS were constitutional.
The Supreme Court developed the laws governing Victim Impact Statements based on what they thought was a constitutional conflict where the punishment may be enhanced when a statement made by the victim or family may have more of an impact on the sentencing authority than the ...view middle of the document...
In Gathers v. South Carolina (1989), it held once again that the character of the victim was irrelevant and only the events of the crime were important.
However, in Payne v. Tennessee (1991), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment was not violated and did not prevent victim impact statements from being heard. With this ruling the Supreme Court ruled that if a State decides to permit victim impact statements it does not violate the Eight Amendment and if such statements are deemed unfair the defendant can seek redress under the fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. This decision led to the reversal of ruling in Booth v. Maryland and South Carolina v. Gather. A major milestone for this case was the fact the Court stated that history going back to Old English law has shown that victim harm was always considered when defining blame culpability. And that victim impact evidence is just another way of showing the jury/judge the exact harm the crime in question created.
Victim Impact Statements can show that more than a life was lost and that the survivors will suffer in many areas by detailing the physical, social, financial, and psychological toll a crime places on the victim and/or the family. It makes the victim human. The statements are usually wrought with emotion.
The Constitutions founders wrote the Amendments and it is only human nature to decipher them differently. Judicial precedents are a mixture of legal rights and personnel comprehension for the laws. With the above stated cases, we have seen where lines were blurred due to the vagueness of laws: state courts have made rulings; U.S. Supreme Court reviewed, rendered and eventual overturned their own verdicts. The laws were developed to protect the legal...