Fueled by technology and the victims’ rights movement, “victim impact videos” are becoming staples in criminal trials, reports the Washington Post. Increasingly sophisticated multimedia presentations depict victims from cradle to grave, often with soft music in the background, tugging on the heartstrings of jurors. Defense lawyers say the videos are highly prejudicial and have sought to have them banned. The Supreme Court last month declined to hear challenges to two such videos, including one of Sara Weir, who was raped and murdered in 1993 at 19. The video contains more than 90 photos of Weir and is set to the haunting tones of Enya.
As a result of the court’s decision, the use of such videos will probably accelerate in coming years. “The publicity from the Supreme Court cases is going to make more victims and prosecutors aware of the possibility of technology-aided victim impact statements,” said Margaret Garvin of the National Crime Victim Law Institute. Prosecutors defend the videos, which are presented as part of “victim impact evidence” in death penalty and non-capital homicides and are usually put together by families. “You’re talking about 20 minutes that actually lets the jury see these people walking and breathing and moving,” said Matt Murphy, an Orange County, Ca., prosecutor. “I can see why these videos drive defense lawyers crazy because they actually balance things out.”