Below are summaries of recent cases implicating victims' rights
which may be of interest to you:
By state click here.
State v. Famiglietti, 2001 WL 717652 (Fla. App. 3 Dist.
Defendant not entitled to have judge perform in camera review of
psychiatric records of alleged victim protected by sexual assault
counselor-victim privilege. Defendant claimed that alleged victim
had long history of psychiatric treatment and that defendant was
entitled to explore all information that was likely to lead to material
evidence in his case and that alleged victim had history of being
beaten by black males, had once lied to psychiatrist, and that counsel
for defendant had received information contrary to victim's deposition
People v. Bakalis, 752 N.E.2d 1107 (IL 2001)
New rule which expressly authorizes circuit judges to allow parties
in capital cases to take discovery depositions of any person disclosed
as witness authorized trial court in instant case to allow defendant
charged with capital murder of her children to take deposition of
her husband, who was victims' father.
U.S. v. Whittaker, 201 F.R.D. 363 (ED PA 2001)
Sections of the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act giving crime
victim the right to confer with government attorney in the case,
and imposing on government attorney the duty to inform victim of
any restitution or other relief, does not create a client-attorney
relationship or a reasonable expectation of one.
State v. Koskovich, 776 A.2d 144 (NJ 2001
There is no artificial time or page limit on victim-impact testimony
in a capital case. Victim-impact evidence in a capital sentencing
proceeding should provide only a glimpse of the murder victim's
life and background, and the impact that his or her death has had
on immediate family members; within those parameters, trial courts
retain wide discretion concerning the length of victim-impact testimony.
Poetry written by murder victim's mother and included in her victim
impact statement given during capital
sentencing proceedings was not so inappropriately emotional as to
unfairly prejudice defendant; however, NJ Supreme Court cautioned
particular vigilance on the part of trial courts in future cases
to ensure that poetry and similar forms of expression in victim
impact statements do not breach parameters previously established
for admission of such statements.
A prohibition on victim-impact testimony concerning the appropriate
penalty applies to testimony either in support of, or in opposition
to, the death penalty; just as victim-impact testimony supportive
of the death penalty could inflame the jury and distract it from
relevant evidence, so too could testimony in opposition to the death
penalty. As a guard against the possibility that some jurors in
a capital sentencing proceeding will assume that a victim-impact
witness prefers the death penalty when otherwise silent on that
question, trial courts should instruct the jury that a victim-impact
witness is precluded from expressing an opinion on capital punishment
and, therefore, jurors must draw no
inference whatsoever by a witness's silence in that regard.
Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, v. Brooks, 2001 WL
499327 (Ala.Civ.App. 2001)
The evidence did not support finding that actions by Board of Pardons
and Paroles, in
conducting a screening hearing, without requisite notice to prisoner's
determine if formal parole hearing would be necessary, were capricious
where Board had long-standing policy of conducting such screening
hearings, and use
of such hearings to determine preliminarily if there was any possibility
of parole was
previously sanctioned by victims' rights advocates.
People of the State of Michigan, v. Thompson, 2001 WL 672403
The state Crime Victim's Rights Act authorizes trial courts to
order restitution, directing that when sentencing a defendant convicted
of a crime, the court shall order, in addition to or in lieu of
any other penalty authorized by law or in addition to any other
penalty required by law, that the defendant make full restitution
to any victim of the defendant's course of conduct that gives rise
to the conviction or to the victim's estate. In determining the
amount of restitution to order, the trial court must "consider
the amount of loss sustained by any victim as a result of the offense."
The trial court's determination of the
victim's loss must be reasonable and based on the evidence presented.
People v. Richardson, 751 N.E.2d 1104 (IL 2001)
Considering multiple victim impact statements, rather than statement
of "a single representative" of victim, during sentencing
violated Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, however, the
"Crime Victim's Rights" amendment to state constitution
and Crime Victims and Witnesses Act were intended to serve as shield
to protect rights of victims, not as sword to be used by criminal
defendants seeking appellate relief. Statute that limits definition
of crime victim to "a single representative" of deceased
was "law enacted under" "Crime Victim's Rights"
amendment to state constitution, and thus, such amendment precluded
defendant from seeking appellate relief on ground that more than
one victim impact statement was presented and considered at his
State v. Harrison, 24 P.3d 936 (Utah 2001)
A witness of tender years may be accompanied by an adult to ease
the emotional turmoil of testifying in court. This was within broad
discretion afforded trial court in managing proceedings and did
not prejudice defendant, despite fact that witness was only two
weeks short of her eighteenth birthday at time of trial, and despite
defendant's contention that advocate's presence served to suggest
to jury that witness' testimony was truthful, where defendant alleged
no inappropriate behavior by victim's advocate during witness' testimony,
and no such behavior appeared in record.
Statute governing role of guardians ad litem in proceedings in
juvenile court did not authorize attorney guardian ad litem appointed
thereunder on behalf of minor complainant in rape and sexual abuse
prosecution of an adult defendant to sit at counsel table, question
witnesses, or make objections during trial; statute authorized guardian
ad litem to take actions to alleviate conditions resulting in minor's
abuse, neglect, or dependency, not to participate in criminal punishment
of perpetrator thereof.
People v. Drake, 728 N.Y.S.2d 636 (Supreme Ct. New York
A victim struck on head by brick would be allowed to appear in
court as spectator at trial of accused assailant, after she gave
her testimony; victim had no recollection of incident and could
only testify as to prior circumstances and extent of her injuries,
precluding any calling of victim for rebuttal testimony, her appearance
would not invoke undue sympathy from jury, and witnessing of trial
was deemed therapeutic by her physicians.
State v. McKinney, 2001 WL 298636 (Tenn.Crim.App. 2001)
Due process was not offended by the admission of victim impact
testimony from a person not from the victim's family. The state
made application to the trial court before presenting the disputed
evidence. The trial court conducted a jury-out hearing after which
it limited the testimony to those details about the victim's life
which were solely work-related. The prosecution took appropriate
steps to avoid any jury confusion regarding victim impact testimony
and aggravating circumstances. The prosecution also
made minimal references to the victim impact evidence in its closing,
so as to avoid the jury's misuse of that evidence. Finally, the
trial court gave the required jury instruction to guide the jury's
proper consideration of the victim impact evidence.
State v. Lunsford, 2001 WL 283436 (Ohio App. 2 Dist. 2001)
Defendant argued that the trial court improperly allowed the victim
advocate to read a victim impact statement during the sentencing
hearing without making such statement available to him prior to
his sentencing. When a victim or her representative makes a statement
prior to the defendant's sentencing, "[t]he court may give
copies" of such statement to the defendant and his counsel.
Thus, the trial court was not required to give copies of the victim
advocate's statement to the defendant and his counsel prior to his
People v. Harris, 745 N.E.2d 717 (App. Ct. IL 2001).
Trial judge had authority to order homicide defendant to pay restitution
including airfare expenses of mother and four others to attend victim's
funeral. Legislature intended to make victims whole and to make
defendants pay any costs incurred as result of their actions. Defendant
waived claim that restitution order should not have included airfare
for individuals other than victim's mother to attend victim's funeral,
where defendant failed to object to airfare bill at sentencing or
in post- sentencing motion.
a. State v. Sansing Supreme Court of Arizona 26 P.3d 1118 (2001)
The victim gave a statement that requested mercy for the offender.
The judge considered and rejected the statement. The defendant appealed
claiming the judge violated the victim's rights under the Arizona
Constitution by not considering the statement as a mitigating circumstance.
The court held that victims only have the right to speak and that
wasn't violated because she did have the chance to be heard. The
court also held that A.R.S. section 13-704.D expressly forbids a
judge from considering any recommendation made by the victim regarding
b. In re Kevin A. Court of Appeals of Arizona 32 P.3d 1088
The victim was supposed to deliver a victim impact statement to
the court in regards to the restitution requested. The victim failed
to do so in the time limit given by the court. The court held the
deadline must stand and no restitution can be ordered.
a. People v. Moses Court of Appeal, Third District, California
2001 WL 1299319 (not officially published)
It is unclear whether the victim testified in this case; probably
not. The defendant wanted to compel her to testify at the sentencing
hearing because he claimed her constant nagging was great provocation,
which would entitle him to probation. The court held that a victim
has the option to testify at a sentencing hearing but the defendant
has no constitutional right to cross examine on that statement.
The statute concerning victim's rights provides the court must take
into consideration the victim's statement in imposing sentence.
District of Columbia
a. In re M.N.T. District of Columbia Court of Appeals 776 A.2d
Correctional officers gave victim impact statements in a juvenile
criminal proceeding regarding the events that caused their injuries.
Defendant claimed these statements were forbidden by implication
because there were required by statute in adult trials and there
was no mention of juvenile trials. Court held there is no basis
for forbidding impact statements in juvenile courts.
a. State v. Stallard Court of Appeals of Ohio 2001 WL 950048
The issue in this case was whether or not the trial court erred
when it refused to let the defendant view a written victim impact
statement. In Ohio victim impact statements are confidential and
not a public record but the court may furnish copies to the defense
and the prosecution. The court held this is a decision that is left
to the discretion of the trial court and there was no error.
b. State v. Smith Court of Appeals of Ohio 2001 WL 1295400
The defendant claimed error because the trial court failed to
bring in the victim and the victim's family at the time of sentencing.
The court held that this was not grounds under the statute for declaring
a mistrial or for setting aside a conviction or sentence.
a. State v. Blackhurst Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
2001 WL 991966
The state claimed the trial court erred because it failed to properly
consider the victim's statement. The victim testified to the circumstances
of the accident, her and her child's injuries, and recommended a
time of incarceration she felt would enhance public safety. Tennessee
has three different avenues for a victim to take part in the sentencing
hearings. The trial court relied its decision on the Victim Impact
Statement Act, but the appeals court held that only dealt with written
statements, not oral ones such as the one in this case. The trial
court also erred in limiting it to information from the written
statement that was part of a presentence report and by concluding
the court can only consider the statement when determining statutory
enhancement and mitigating factors.
b. State v. Arnett Supreme Court of Tennessee 49 S.W.3d
The victim in this case gave a statement that involved a description
of her psychological injuries. The trial court used that as evidence
to support the "particularly great personal injuries"
enhancement factor. The Supreme Court held the statement was evidence
to support the application of the enhancement factor.
a. Brown v. State Court of Appeals of Texas 54 S.W.3d 930
Defendant claims he was entitled to notice that the victim, the
victim's mother, and the victim's psychologist were going to give
a victim impact statement at sentencing. The court held that victim
impact statements are evidence of the impact the crime has had on
the victim, not evidence of an extraneous offense, which would have
required specific notice.
b. Duvall v. State Court of Appeals of Texas 2001 WL 1164719
The presentence report contained statements from the victim's
mother and stepfather. The defendant claimed consideration of those
statements denied him his constitutional right of confrontation.
The court held he didn't properly preserve for review his contention
that his confrontation rights were violated. The court was unable
to answer the issue but in a parenthetical it cited a case where
considering such statements in a presentence were not error.
a. Remington v. Commonwealth Supreme Court of Virginia 551
The issue in this case was whether the defendant was entitled
to a new sentencing hearing when the post-sentence report was without
the victim impact statement. The Virginia Supreme Court held that
the statute requiring victim impact statements in a post-sentence
report was enacted to "preserve the right of victims of crimes
to have the impact of those crimes upon their lives considered as
part of the sentencing process, if that is their wish, and to protect
their privacy thereafter." The court ruled the statutory requirement
does not confer any rights on the defendant and therefore he is
not entitled to a new sentencing hearing.