(a) (1) In all cases in which the death penalty may be imposed, subsequent to an adjudication of guilt and in conjunction with the procedures in Code Section 17-10-30, the court shall allow evidence from the family of the victim, or such other witness having personal knowledge of the victim's personal characteristics and the emotional impact of the crime on the victim, the victim's family, or the community. Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, such evidence shall be given in the presence of the defendant and of the jury and shall be subject to cross-examination.
(2) The admissibility of the evidence described in paragraph (1) of this subsection and the number of witnesses other than immediate family who may testify shall be in the sole discretion of the judge and in any event shall be permitted only in such a manner and to such a degree as not to inflame or unduly prejudice the jury. As used in this paragraph, the term "immediate family" means the victim's spouse, child, parent, stepparent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, stepbrother, stepsister, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law and the spouses of any such individuals.
(3) In all cases other than those in which the death penalty may be imposed, prior to fixing of the sentence as provided for in Code Section 17-10-1 or the imposing of life imprisonment as mandated by law, and before rendering the appropriate sentence, including any order of restitution, the court shall allow the victim, as such term is defined in Code Section 17-17-3, the family of the victim, or such other witness having personal knowledge of the crime to testify about the impact of the crime on the victim, the family of the victim, or the community. Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, such evidence shall be given in the presence of the defendant and shall be subject to cross-examination. The admissibility of the testimony and evidence in support of such testimony shall be in the sole discretion of the judge and in any event shall be permitted only in such a manner as to allow for cross-examination by the defendant and to such a degree as not to unduly prejudice the defendant. If the judge excludes the testimony or evidence in support of such testimony, the state shall be allowed to make a proffer of such testimony or evidence.
(4) Upon a finding by the court specific to the case and the witness that the witness would not be able to testify in person without showing undue emotion or that testifying in person will cause the witness severe physical or emotional distress or trauma, evidence presented pursuant to this subsection may be in the form of, but not limited to, a written statement or a prerecorded audio or video statement, provided that such witness is subject to cross-examination and the evidence itself will not be available to the jury during deliberations. Photographs of the victim may be included with any evidence presented pursuant to this subsection.
(5) If the accused has been convicted of a serious violent felony as defined in Code Section 17-10-6.1, attempted murder or attempted kidnapping, or any violation of Code Section 16-5-90, 16-5-91, 16-7-82, 16-7-84, or 16-7-86, and the victim or a representative of the victim is not present at the presentence hearing, it shall be the duty of the court to inquire of the prosecuting attorney whether or not the victim has been notified of the presentence hearing as provided in Code Section 17-17-5. If the court finds that the prosecuting attorney has not made a reasonable attempt to notify the victim, the presentence hearing shall be recessed in order to provide the victim the opportunity to attend prior to sentence being imposed; provided, however, that prior to recessing the presentence hearing, the court shall allow the state or the accused to call any witnesses who were subpoenaed and are present at such presentence hearing. Following any such testimony, the presentence hearing shall be recessed and the victim shall be notified of the date, time, and location when the presentence hearing shall resume.
(b) In presenting such evidence, the victim, the family of the victim, or such other witness having personal knowledge of the impact of the crime on the victim, the victim's family, or the community shall, if applicable:
(1) Describe the nature of the offense;
(2) Itemize any economic loss suffered by the victim or the family of the victim, if restitution is sought;
(3) Identify any physical injury suffered by the victim as a result of the offense along with its seriousness and permanence;
(4) Describe any change in the victim's personal welfare or familial relationships as a result of the offense;
(5) Identify any request for psychological services initiated by the victim or the victim's family as a result of the offense; and
(6) Include any other information related to the impact of the offense upon the victim, the victim's family, or the community that the court inquires of.
(c) The court shall allow the defendant the opportunity to cross-examine and rebut the evidence presented of the victim's personal characteristics and the emotional impact of the crime on the victim, the victim's family, or the community, and such cross-examination and rebuttal evidence shall be subject to the same discretion set forth in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section.
(d) No sentence shall be invalidated because of failure to comply with the provisions of this Code section. This Code section shall not be construed to create any cause of action or any right of appeal on behalf of the victim, the state, or the accused; provided, however, that if the court intentionally fails to comply with this Code section, the victim may file a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission.Section: Previous 17-10-1 17-10-1.1 17-10-1.2 17-10-1.3 17-10-1.4 17-10-2 17-10-3 17-10-3.1 17-10-4 17-10-5 17-10-6 17-10-6.1 17-10-6.2 17-10-6.3 17-10-7 Next
Last modified: October 14, 2016