Victims and Justice under Law
DOI link for Victims and Justice under Law
Victims and Justice under Law book
This chapter explores what victims of violence seek from the criminal law. Victims have a particular interest in the effective investigation of crime by police. An overview of police investigations as demonstrated by clearance rates is provided. A closer look at problems with the police investigation of rape cases follows, including shortcomings in police training, attitudes and reporting procedures. The example of failure to process victim rape kits shows a continuing lack of understanding and priority for such investigations.
Attention then turns to the victims’ rights movement and its support for increased punishment in certain cases. Laws enacted at both the state and federal level, often in the name of past victims, have provided for more severe offender sanctions. Questions about how representative the views of public victim advocates are of victims generally are raised. The headline cases that have driven many tough on crime measures are different than most crimes of violence in the nature of the crime and the race, age, gender and socioeconomic status of victims. Victims generally are not as concerned with increasing punishments as many public victim advocates are. This is due to many reasons, including the concerns of some victims about the fairness of the legal process in their community.
The victims’ rights movement has won rights to speak in court, notably in the form of victim impact statements. The origin of this right in death penalty proceedings is detailed in Payne v. Tennessee. The legal understanding that these statements are to inform the sentencer about matters critical to sentencing is contrasted with the way that they are actually used today. As shown in the sentencing hearing of Dr. Larry Nassar, victim statements may allow victims to address the relational harms of the offense; they may be part of relational justice. Victim impact statements should be governed by the norm of moral regard, however, to restrict name-calling by victims; to ensure that all victim voices are heard, including those who do not support the prosecution’s view of punishment in the case; and to remind sentencing judges of the need to avoid making judgments about relatively worthy and unworthy victims.