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Whether crime victims should present victim impact statements (VISs) at sentencing remains a subject of controversy in the criminal justice literature. But relatively little is known about the content of VISs and how victims use them. This article provides a content analysis of the 168 VISs presented in a Michigan court sentencing of Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty to decades of sexual abuse of young athletes while he was treating them for various sports injuries. Nassar committed similar crimes against each of his victims, allowing a robust research approach to answer questions about the content, motivations for, and benefits of submitting VISs. Specifically, it is possible to explore the question of whether (roughly) the same crimes produce (roughly) the same VISs. The VISs reveal the victims’/survivors’ motive for presenting VISs, their manner of presenting the impact of sexual abuse, their interactions with the sentencing judge and the defendant, and other features of the VISs. Analyzing the VISs’ contents confirms many of the arguments supporting using VISs at sentencing and challenges some lingering objections to them. The findings support the desirability of VISs for informational, therapeutic, and educational purposes in criminal sentencings.
Cassell, Paul and Erez, Edna, "How Victim Impact Statements Promote Justice: Evidence from the Content of Statements Delivered in Larry Nassar's Sentencing" (2023). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 382.