Getting Even: The Role of the Victim
Jeffrie G. Murphy
Arizona State University College of Law
Social Philosophy & Policy, Vol. 2, p. 209, 1990
This article responds to criticisms of the role revenge plays in the criminal punishment system. Many times victims often feel that their particular injuries are ignored while the criminal justice system addresses itself to some abstract injury to the state or to the rule of law itself, which can sometimes appear to result in wrongdoers being treated with much greater solicitation and respect than their victims receive. This has given rise to the victims’ rights movement. This article addresses one of the issues raised by this movement relating to the issue of the legitimacy of hatred and desires for revenge as operative values in a system of criminal law. While it is widely assumed that this attitude deserves no place in the moral and legal outlook of civilized people, this article attempts to show that the burden of proof should be placed on those who in principle oppose revenge and to suggest that this burden might not be as easy to shift back to those advocating for revenge as an operative principle. It concludes that crime victims often want to influence sentencing, and their motives for this are often vindictive. While such motives may be dishonorable and giving a legal role to victims so motivated would indeed produce deep harm to our system of criminal justice, this has mostly been simply assumed and not demonstrated. In fairness to those victims it should be demonstrated before the state simply dismisses as irrational or evil the passionate claims of those whom it has failed to protect from criminal violence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: Criminal Law, Retributivism, Revenge
Date posted: September 9, 2009
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