In this study, we addressed whether victim impact instructions served as a legal safeguard in a capital case involving victim impact testimony. We hypothesized that specific victim impact instructions would moderate the relation between victim impact testimony and death penalty recommendations. One hundred sixty-six participants viewed a simulated videotaped trial in which a victim impact statement was delivered in different emotional conditions. Judge’s instructions were varied as either general instructions or with the addition of specific victim impact instructions. Participant-jurors who heard specific victim impact instructions were less likely to recommend death compared to participants who heard general jury instructions. The value of victim impact instructions as a legal safeguard in capital trials is discussed.
Platania, Judith and Berman, Garrett, "The Moderating Effect of Judge’s Instructions on Victim Impact Testimony in Capital Cases" (2006). Feinstein College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Papers. Paper 22.