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NCJ Number: 213939 
Title: Comparative Analysis of Victim Impact Testimony in Capital Cases in New Jersey and Texas (From Visions for Change: Crime and Justice in the Twenty-First Century, Third Edition, P 238-264, 2002, Roslyn Muraskin and Albert R. Roberts, eds. -- See NCJ-213935)
Author(s): Ronald L. Reisner Ph.D.; Peter J. Nelligan Ph.D.
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 27
Sponsoring Agency: Prentice Hall (Pearson Education)
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
Sale Source: Prentice Hall (Pearson Education)
One Lake Street
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
United States of America
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Book Chapter
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This chapter reports research results on the practices of trial courts regarding victim impact testimony to juries in two jurisdictions, the entire State of New Jersey and Smith County, TX, during the 1990s.
Abstract: This research raises questions about the legitimacy of allowing even the most limited elements of emotionality in the jury's penalty deliberations. These findings resulted from a quantitative and qualitative analysis of victim impact testimony in 28 capital murder trials conducted from 1990 through 1999, 14 in New Jersey and 14 in Smith County, TX. The data indicate that despite significant differences in style of presentation determined by different legal and constitutional settings, the impact testimony in both States addresses four subject categories: the nature of the relationship with the victim, the nature of the victim's character, the short-term impact of the victim's death, and long-term impacts. Within each subject category, however, there were differences, such as the greater depth of character descriptions in New Jersey testimony, which is prepared in advance. The manner in which victim impact testimony is prepared and delivered reflects differences in the political cultures of the two jurisdictions. Texas is a strong death penalty State based in supportive public opinion (220 persons have been executed since 1976), and this punitive climate supports the eliciting of victim impact statements that have significant emotional content intended to increase the harshness of sentencing. New Jersey, on the other hand, although nominally supportive of capital punishment, has performed no executions since 1963. The New Jersey Supreme Court barely approved the constitutionality of victim impact testimony and with limiting parameters. The testimony must be written, prepared in advance, reviewed by defense counsel, approved by the judge, and rehearsed to test for emotionality. 4 tables and 73 references
Main Term(s): Victim impact statements
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Comparative analysis; New Jersey; Sentencing/Sanctions; State laws; Texas; Victim-witness legislation
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