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Crime Music

26 Pages Posted: 8 May 2009  

I. Bennett Capers

Brooklyn Law School

Date Written: May 4, 2009


In the penalty phase of the capital trial of Douglas Oliver Kelly, the court permitted the government to play a twenty-minute video montage of the life of Kelly's victim, Sara Weir, from infancy to death, set to the music of Irish new-age singer Enya. The admission of the videotape eulogy as victim impact evidence, a growing trend in death penalty cases, is troubling enough, and illustrates the slippery slope the Supreme Court left exposed in Payne v. Tennessee. But what about the music?

Using the Kelly case as a point of entry, and building on musicology and neuroscience, this brief essay ruminates on the use of music not only in the Kelly case, but in our lives in general. In a bold and provocative move, it then poses, and attempts to answer, an important question: If we are serious about reducing crime, then shouldn't we also be serious about using music as a tool of crime control?

Keywords: music , crime control, death penalty, Eighth Amendment, Deterrence

Suggested Citation

Capers, I. Bennett, Crime Music (May 4, 2009). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 7, No. 1; Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-14. Available at SSRN:

I. Bennett Capers (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States


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