Many of the Supreme Court’s decisions are improving the position of victims and victim handling during various procedures. An example is the 1991 decision that allows suppressing the defense attempts at referring to rape victims’ past sexual experiences as irrelevant (which they are). I believe that it was a major step forward for our society, and even though nowadays it is still possible to meet sexist remarks on the behavior of rape victims, at court they officially cannot be regarded as any kind of evidence to a particular case of a sexual offense.
We will write a custom Essay on Supreme Court Decisions that Affect Victim Handing specifically for you
301 certified writers online
A more controversial precedent took place in 1990 and provided child rape victims with the right to not facing their alleged abuser during a trial. They may testify via closed-circuit television. In this case, the psychological and physical well-being of the victim (abused child) is considered more valuable than the right of the defendant to face the accuser that is granted by the Sixth Amendment. In this case, I find that I also agree with the decision despite its controversial nature; in part because the prosecutor needs to convince the judge that the victim is likely to be traumatized by facing the alleged abuser. In other words, despite the fact that the rights of the defendant are breached, the Supreme Court works to avoid the possibility of the abuse of the right granted by this precedent.
Still, most of the “landmark” precedents created by the Court are not aimed at improving the position of victims (Karmen, 2016, p. 207). The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press, and in 1989, six (of the nine) justices argued that the press can print the name of a woman who “was already identified as a rape victim in publicly available police reports” without any liabilities (Karmen, 2016, p. 209). I strongly disagree with such reasoning because police reports are not read by as many people as newspapers, so the “damage done” logic does not apply here. The First Amendment does not free the press from the liabilities that are connected to the information published; the press needs to be responsible for its activities. Three states (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) have laws that prohibit the publishing of the rape victims names, and the Court did not declare them unconstitutional (Karmen, 2016, p. 209). I think that this fact should demonstrate and prove the flawed nature of the decision, and I would work to bring this aspect of victim treatment to question and attempt to change it. If the press cannot be held liable, it is the question of victim handling and protecting their privacy throughout legal proceedings and after them.
All the cases described by Karmen (2016) are most significant in one way or another (pp. 207-208). I do tend to agree (sometimes begrudgingly) with most of them, with the exception of the one concerned with publishing the names of rape victims and the one that I consider most important and impactful for the victim’s rights and the well-being of our society. In 1987, a death sentence was upheld in spite of the statistical analysis that appeared to demonstrate a discriminatory tendency in court. The analysis showed that the death sentence was a more likely outcome for the people who were convicted of killing a white person rather than a black one.
Admittedly, the use of such statistics does not necessarily apply to a specific case, and the death sentence is an extremely controversial issue of its own. However, a decision like this one has the most detrimental effect on the victims and society. Such decisions serve to put minorities in disadvantage, solidify discriminatory ideas and intentions, and discredit the justice system as approving or neglectful. The decisions are also illustrative: like the much more recent scandal with San Francisco Police (Fuller, 2016), they show that our society is still far from becoming inclusive and that the people who cannot afford to be racist or sexist still have not absorbed the information from diversity and tolerance courses.
Fuller, T. (2016). San Francisco Police Chief releases officers’ racist texts. The New York Times. Web.
Karmen, A. (2016). Crime victims (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.