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March 27, 2008

A great event to gear up for National Crime Victims' Rights Week

As detailed at this Justice Department webpage,  April 13-19 this year marks National Crime Victims' Rights Week.  As detailed below, I will have the good fortune of being able to attend an event a few days before this week to get me all geared up:

The Criminal Justice Research Center, the Department of Sociology and the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law will host the 19th Annual Walter C. Reckless-Simon Dinitz Memorial Lecture on Monday (4/7).  The event will occur from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Barrister Club located at 25 W. 11th Ave.  The speaker for the evening will be the Honorable Paul G. Cassell, Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, the University of Utah, and Former Federal District Court Judge for the District of Utah, who will be lecturing on the topic, "In Defense of Victim Impact Statement: Recognizing the Proper and Important Role of Crime Victims in the Criminal Justice Process."

Here is the official abstract for the lecture:

In the last two decades, the criminal justice systems of every state and the federal government have protected the right of crime victims to deliver a victim impact statement at sentencing.  Yet while these reforms have proven popular with the public and politicians, legal academics remain skeptical.  These critics have argued that victim impact statements have no proper role to play at sentencing and that they unduly inject emotion into what should be an objective decision about the appropriate sentence for a defendant.  On this important issue, the critics are wrong and the public is right.  Crime victims have a vital role to play throughout the criminal justice process, particularly at sentencing where judges need a wide range of information to determine the proper sentence for an already-convicted criminal. Moreover, criminal sentencing can never be a completely emotionless process. Even though victim impact statements may be emotional, crime victims provide vital information to judges about the harm caused by a defendant -- a critical component of the sentencing decision. By delivering victim impact statements, victims also regain some of the dignity that was taken from them by criminal offenders.  Victim impact statements at sentencing are therefore a proper part of our nation's approach to criminal justice.

March 27, 2008 at 12:59 PM | Permalink


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» Judge Cassell Offers The Rationale Behind Victims' Rights from Simple Justice
With all due respect, a phrase used by lawyers to preface any and all insults, former Judge turned lawprof Paul Cassell is running on empty in his quest to elevate the "rights" of victims to the status of a third party in the criminal courtroom.[Read More]

Tracked on Mar 28, 2008 5:47:39 AM


Ah, the Victims Rights Industry gets to have a whole week dedicated to itself. I hope there is a sale at Pennys because I need a new suit, and I missed the Easter Sales that honored the death of Christ with tremendous savings on cufflinks.

Anyway, “Victim Impact Statements” are really statements by witnesses that couldn’t make it in as testimony. Perhaps there wasn’t an opportunity to present the testimony during a trial. Or, more likely, what they wanted to say was irrelevant and incoherent.

Most victims are simply bad witnesses, statements by them that are not subject to cross examination can be presented to the judge without being subject to cross examination.

Strangely, Cassell doesn’t actually refute the argument that “victim impact statements have no proper role to play at sentencing and that they unduly inject emotion into what should be an objective decision about the appropriate sentence for a defendant.” I would like to see him explain this. But, since he isn’t really making much of an argument, he never does. At best, he seems to be conceding that victim impact statements are emotional diatribes and that they serve some sort of therapeutic role. Do we really need someone that was confirmed by Congress to listen to this? What I don’t understand is whether he is arguing that defendants should serve less time in jail in a statement involves less crying (and more time for a victim that can cry on cue.) Is he arguing that a murderer of someone with no friends or family should serve less time in jail than a murderer of someone with friends and family that can cry on cue?

I really don’t see why the “opinion” of the public (or rather the “public” as conceived in Judge Cassell’s mind), really matters. It isn’t as if Judge Cassell would really like to meet the public at large or the victims of most crimes in an uncontrolled, unhygienic environment. It is one thing to meet a representative of an organization at a cocktail party or a meeting, but it is another thing to meet the family of someone that was murdered in a crack-house fight, and explain to them why the government will now be prosecuting their son/brother/boyfriend’s best friend for killing him. Heck, most actual prosecutors (as opposed to cheerleaders) do their best to avoid these people unless they *really* need them as a witness, and even then the odds are that a prosecutor has so little in common culturally with a victim that the conversation is awkward.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 27, 2008 1:21:18 PM

Ok, I can't resisit - are you seriously telling me that Victim's Rights are going to be discussed at the Walter C. RECKLESS lecture? There's a punchline there somewhere :-)

Posted by: anonymous | Mar 27, 2008 10:18:24 PM

I doubt there will be much discussion. This is a political act by DOJ, and self-promotion by Cassell.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 28, 2008 10:45:46 AM

Victim "impact" statements are subject, or should be subject, to the same "thorough adversarial testing" required by the Constitution and rules as to any other witness testimony that may affect a defendant's sentence. See Rita v. US, 127 S. Ct. 2456, 2465 (2007). For a thorough discussion, see pp. 16-18 of Defending Against the Crime Victim Rights Act, http://www.fd.org/pdf_lib/victim%20memo%20to%20defenders.pdf.

Posted by: abe | Mar 29, 2008 10:59:33 PM

Doug, I wish I could be there. I have been part of way too many emotional V.I.S. and frankly I do not see how a victim flailing at a microphone and playing out there inner contempt and emotion help the proceedings.

I watched as a mother of a dead (drug pushing-wife beating)son, jumped at me (I swear I was just sitting there waiting my turn to address the court) and missed hitting me with a flying tackle only to impale her forhead on the edge of the defense table. My client (the beaten up girlfriend of the druggie victim who had tried to keep her from leaving him by giving her too many vicodins) almost had a heart attack and my BRAND NEW Suit was a literal Bloody mess!!

The Courtroom broke into pandamonium and an ambulance had to be called to take the mom to the emergency room. I had blood everywhere from my head to my shoes. My client seeing the ex's mom at my feet, passed out onto me.

While that one was the absolute worst, I have been at one's where people threaten each other and even one's where fights break out in the courtroom.

Why don't we go to letting the court receive written statements or even let the prosecutor read a statement from the victim into the record. I for one, would much prefer that order be kept in the courtroom and a sentence that reflects Society's interest be handed down. Otherwise let's do away with public prosecutors and let the victims and defense hire their own lawyers and fight the whole thing out. Now that would be a novel idea... no wait wait, isn't that what they do over in the civil law parts???

Posted by: That Lawyer Dude | Mar 29, 2008 11:24:26 PM

Volokh, broke comment silence to come on the thread of this subject. He expelled me and blocked my IP address a second time on this subject. I pointed out this criminal lover, rent seeking lawyer was generating lawyer jobs. There are 23 million crime victims a year. They generate no lawyer fees, and may rot. Cassell wants more parties for lawyers to represent, at tax payer expense.

If he cared about preventing crime victimization, he would strongly advocate that criminals be executed at the earliest age our nation could tolerate. The average criminal commits 400 FBI Index felony crimes a year, each year of life. The deceased have zero recidivism. The criminal justice system is nearly irrelevant, punishing 1 in 100. Minorities bear a hideously disparate impact of these millions of crimes, especially murder. Minorities just have almost no justice system protection from the client of the criminal lover lawyer. Their murder rate is 6 times that of whites.


Criminal law under the leadership of the criminal lover lawyer is in utter failure in its four stated goals.

Cassell is just another lawyer running his con. His clients are mostly white people. Cassell has yet to reply to these criticisms.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 30, 2008 11:26:06 PM

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