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Most states allow victims and/or victims' survivors to speak during the sentencing phase of trials as to the pain they have suffered as a result of the crime. Such proclamations, called “victim impact statements,” are extremely controversial. Some legal experts posit that victims and/or victims'survivors have the right to speak publicly about the harm they have endured; other legal experts suggest that such statements encourage the trier of fact to base sentencing decisions on emotion, as opposed to fact. The presence of victim impact statements in capital trials has caused considerable debate, as social scientific research has suggested that juror, defendant, and victim characteristics play a significant role in how such declarations are perceived and, consequently, in juror decision-making processes in death penalty cases. The ...

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