What seems to me most obviously wrong in Judge Cassell’s outline [a lecture by lawprof, formerly judge, Paul Cassell, for National Crime Victims Rights Week] is his point #4, about how impact statements restore to victims “some of the dignity that was taken from them by criminal offenders”. Every day these procedures induce family members to stand up in court and read aloud “rot in hell, you’ve destroyed our family” statements which are then reported in the local press. I can’t be the only one who sees these statements as a grievous surrender of victim families’ dignity. And family members who might prefer silence as the more dignified course must often feel intense pressure to make a statement, the more demonstrative the better, for fear of appearing in others’ eyes as insufficiently loving or appreciative of the victimized member. (The figure of Cordelia comes to mind.)
I have no idea what effect victim impact statements have on the guilty person being sentenced; I think they are worth opposing because of their barbarous effect on the innocent.