One of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.
Donna R. Gore , “LadyJustice,” has first hand experience with the reality of preparing a victim impact statement when her father was murdered and the killer was convicted.
She writes on her site:
In 1987, Ladyjustice’s victim impact statement would not have won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism….But, it was from the heart. Looking back now, LJ could have crafted something different…if the emotions hadn’t gotten in the way. And that is the point. Having emotions interjected into the narrative and/or verbal presentation is a double-edged sword… On the one hand, the judge, the attorneys, the defendant and the families need to hear the emotion to understand and to validate the tremendously negative changes in their quality of life and the realities of the situation in terms of the human toll.
On the other hand, emotion can overtake the speaker, especially when in very close proximity to the defendant. As a survivor, you want your day in court. It’s your special time to relate just how devastating the entire experience has been.
Creating the appropriate victim impact statement can be a daunting task for families during one of the most traumatic times in their lives. After the initial loss, the journey through the judicial system can be equally frustrating, time-consuming and emotionally draining, re-traumatizing and bringing grief back to the surface. To best utilize the victims’ right to present a victim impact statement at trial, you must be clear-headed and as objective as possible, which for the crime victim is next to impossible.
Through the years after her father’s murder and trial, Donna Gore has been active in several victims’ rights circles using her experiences to assist others in the same circumstances. She volunteered as a court escort for families in the Connecticut judicial system, she even created a coloring book for children so they could better understand what’s happening inside the courtroom and how they are affected. (Kiddies “Coloring Their Way” to Understanding the Court System)
One of the things “LadyJustice” found lacking was the ability of some crime victims to create a compelling victim impact statement. Not everyone in the throes of a murder trial are able to think about the outcome, what they will say, how they will feel; this is where the services of “LadyJustice” can be helpful.
Victim Impact Statement Services
Donna Gore put together a service program for crime victims and offers her assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. She recognizes that this could be of great value to not only the crime victim, but to the court system as well. The victim impact statement should not be looked at as an afterthought, but as an essential part of exercising a victim’s right to be heard and on the record during the trial. However, some victims just don’t have the capacity to be practical, succinct and to the point, often taking up too much of the court’s and presiding judge’s time to get their point across.
By using Gore’s services a crime victim can be coached on how to best present their victim impact statement. From her vast experience volunteering in the courtroom, she is able to act as a liaison with advocates who may not have the same experiences. Working with the court advocates, attorneys and prosecutors, not only will the crime victims’ voices be heard, they will be presented professionally, courteously, and effectively.
Donna R. Gore is a consultant and trainer with the Office of Victim Services within the US Department of Justice. She is the host of the internet radio show, Shattered Lives which broadcasts every Saturday at 5pm Eastern time on the Inside Lenz Network.
For more information on how to contract with Donna R. Gore for Victim Impact Statement Services, or to be a future guest on her radio show, please email LadyJusticeDonna@gmail.com or through ImaginePublicity,
Tel: 843-808-0859 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Victim Impact Statement Assistance with Donna R. Gore
- Victims’ Rights Prevail in Connecticut Due to Voices Being Heard (imaginepublicity.com)
- “Restoration, Retribution, or Revenge? Time Shifting Victim Impact Statements in American Judicial Process” (sentencing.typepad.com)
- Court Sentencing and Victim Impact Statements are about Showmanship, Not Justice (crimefilenews.com)