Indiana News

Statements Have No Real Impact

Brizzi Wants Reform

11/20/2009

Ironically, the heart-wrenching statements from the survivors of the Hamilton Avenue victims played no role in the sentencing of the convicted man. Indiana law doesn't allow judges to consider victim impact statements in cases that could bring the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is calling for reform. "This tragedy has literally left a wake of devastation," says Brizzi. "And that ought to be a factor."

Brizzi got the conviction he wanted, but only after agreeing to a deal under which the defendant, Desmond Turner, agreed to waive his right to a jury trial. That left the determination of guilt, as well as the imposition of the sentence, in the hands of Marion Superior Court Judge Robert Altice.

In Booth v. Maryland (1987), the Court found victim impact statements inadmissible in death penalty cases because of the danger that the jury could be overwhelmed by emotion. But in Payne v. Tennessee (1991) the high court reversed the earlier ruling.

Indiana is one of a few states still limiting the use of victim impact statements in death penalty cases. Victims are allowed to address the court, but their statements technically play no role in the sentencing.

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