Sunday, August 9, 2009
Sudden Impact: New Illinois Public Act Will Permit Admission Of Victim Impact Statements Against Defendants Found Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity
Traditionally (but not exclusively), a victim impact statement has been "a statement read into the record during sentencing to inform the judge or jury of the financial, physical, and psychological impact of the crime on the victim and the victim's family." Black's Law Dictionary 1598 (8th ed. 2004) As the Supreme Court put it in Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 825 (1991), a victim impact statement is a "form or method of informing the sentencing authority about the specific harm caused by the crime in question, evidence of a general type long considered by sentencing authorities." But what should happen when a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity and being committed rather than sentenced? Should victim impact statements be allowed in this situation as well? The answer is "yes" according to a new Public Act signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.