Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pressure to Support the Death Penalty?

In yesterday’s post, we mentioned that a victim’s family member’s position on the death penalty can be influenced by many factors. Margaret Vandiver takes this up specifically in this next excerpt from Wounds That Do Not Bind:

Influences on the Choice to Support a Particular Penalty

The adversarial nature of the American legal system leaves victims’ families vulnerable to pressure from various sources. Research should investigate whether families feel any pressure to support one penalty over another, from whom such pressure comes, and how families react to it. Related to this is the question of how homicide victims’ families who oppose the death penalty are treated by victims’ advocates, police, and prosecutors. Research should further address whether and how religious affiliation, education levels, and demographic variables influence survivors’ preference for certain penalties.

This too seems like very important research to conduct, particularly because of the fact that victims’ advocates, rather than being independent agencies, are under the auspices of the prosecutor’s office, and are thus more likely to favor victims’ families who support the penalty that the prosecution is seeking.

Margaret Vandiver’s mention of the treatment given to victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty is one of several references in Wounds That Do Not Bind to the report Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims’ Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty, which Renny Cushing and I wrote in 2002. We were pleased to see Dignity Denied cited so frequently in this scholarly collection, and would certainly be interested in seeing further research on the issues it raises.

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