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Payne v. Tennessee

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Significance: The Supreme Court allowed victim impact statements to be included in the capital sentencing phase of trials.


After convicting Payne of murder, the prosecutor called some of the victim's family to testify in the penalty phase and referred to those statements during closing arguments. Upon being sentenced to die, Payne appealed to the Supreme Court, citing existing precedents against allowing testimony regarding the impact of his crime, but the Court upheld the conviction and the sentencing. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority, overturning Booth v. Maryland (1987), which prohibited victim impact testimony, and South Carolina v. Gathers (1989), which prohibited prosecutors from mentioning the crime's impact on the victim or the family. The Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment did not bar such testimony.