Double-standard justice

July 29, 1991

No reasonable person could ever question that the widow and orphaned son of Theodore D. Wolf, the Maryland state trooper who was senselessly murdered while doing his job in 1990, have suffered grievously and will suffer for the remainder of their lives. But the propriety of placing their agony before the jury considering the sentence of Corporal Wolf's murderer is another question again.

The problem with so-called victim impact statements is simply that such statements greatly intensify the already high level of emotion in murder trials. Worse, such statements inevitably result in placing a higher value on some lives than others. For example, if Corporal Wolf, instead of being an upright young state trooper, had been a homeless vagrant killed on the roadside in the same cruel manner, and if there had been no survivors adversely impacted by his death, then the killer might well get off with a lesser sentence. That's double-standard justice.

People who commit crimes should be punished for what they did, not on the basis of the status of their victim. Victim impact statements have no place in criminal trials.

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