Degrees of emotion: Judicial responses to victim impact statements

Mary Lay Schuster, Amy Propen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Emotional standards and hierarchies in the courtroom may affect judicial reactions to victim impact statements. Based on judicial conversations and courtroom observations in two judicial districts in Minnesota, we suggest that judges contrast emotion with reason in order to maintain control of their courtrooms; when faced with emotional expressions in victim impact statements, judges appreciate expressions of compassion and tolerate expressions of grief but are uncomfortable with expressions of anger. These judicial responses to emotional expression, however, must be contextualized; for example, the judges we spoke with often articulated different reactions to impact statements given by victims of sexual assault, those who are strangers to the perpetrator, and impact statements given by victims of domestic violence, those who are in a relationship with the perpetrator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-104
Number of pages30
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Domestic violence
  • Emotion
  • Judicial response
  • Sentencing
  • Victim impact statement


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