Victims’ Rights, Victims’ Expectations, and Law Enforcement Workers’ Constraints in Cases of Murder

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Research on crime victims and their experiences with the criminal justice system suggests that victims’ rights (e.g., victim impact statements) and victims’ services (e.g., crime victims’ compensation, counseling) have not significantly improved victims’ satisfaction with the criminal justice system or their recovery from the crime. Thus, we appear to know little about how to satisfy and assist victims of crime. This study uses the symbolic interactionist perspective to examine victims’ experiences with law enforcement workers (e.g., detectives, counselors) with a focus on people who have lost a loved one to murder (“bereaved victims”). The data come from in-depth interviews with thirty-two bereaved victims, seven law enforcement workers, and three crime victims’ advocates in Union County (pseudonym). Bereaved victims define the victim role differently from law enforcement workers, creating two main points of conflict with workers: (1) a conflict over their deceased loved one's body, and (2) a conflict over the flow of information in the case. Bereaved victims’ frustrations over these conflicts created problems for their recovery. Bereaved victims’ efforts to see their deceased loved one's body, guide detectives’ investigation, and learn information about the murder and the investigation took a back seat to detectives’ interests in protecting the integrity of the investigation and building a strong case for the prosecution. Policy implications are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre College in Danville, KY

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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