St. Mary's Law Journal


A majority of states permit victim allocution of some sort, with victim impact statements made during the pre-sentencing stage, but Texas is currently the only state which permits victim allocution after sentencing. Since 1991, no one has seriously challenged the Texas practice of allowing such victim statements. Yet, scenes of violence between families of the defendants and the victims following such statements has ignited a movement to reassess the utility of allowing victims to address defendants who have already received their sentences. Originally, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.03 provided victims the chance to present a statement after the court or jury assessed punishment, but before the actual pronouncement of the sentence. During the hearings on the bill, concern was voiced that such statements made before sentencing might influence the judge and change the degree of punishment before the pronouncement of the sentence. Crime victims must feel they are a part of the criminal justice system. If victims do not believe they have participated in prosecuting the offender, confidence in the legal system will decrease, making it nearly impossible for the system to function effectively. Yet, the legislature should not risk other crucial elements of the criminal process to grant victims their wishes. While there are potentially various methods in which Article 42.03 could be amended to solve the shortcomings, the best solution would be to abolish it in favor of the victim impact statement as the proper vehicle for victim allocution. Post-sentence victim allocution is not a crucial step in the trial process. Moreover, victim impact statements adequately serve a therapeutic function for victims, which is the primary justification for Article 42.03. Nevertheless, victims’ rights should not unnecessarily diminish the overall integrity of the judicial system.


St. Mary's University School of Law