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Home >Online Support Ask The Experts > Steve Twist

Steve Twist (Chief Counsel for National Victims Constitutional Amendment Network)

Could you provide some guidelines with regards to victims' impact statements? What general principles should be followed? What makes an appropriate and effective statement? Are there any specifics which might apply to state of Oregon in a homicide case?

The Supreme Court has identified three types of information contained in Victim Impact statements. The first is information about the victim and his life. The second is the impact the crime has had on the survivors. Third is the opinion of the victim as to the appropriate sentence. The first two types of information are plainly appropriate in a homicide case, the third type - a direct opinion on the sentence may not be, and I would consult with the prosecutors about this third point. In Oregon you are allowed to have your own private counsel represent you at sentencing in addition to presenting your impact statement. You must pay for counsel yourself.

There is nothing wrong with emotional content in a victim impact statement - in other words it does not have to be a dry, rational statement.

Having said this, I think the statement has to be what you want to say. If it is, believe me it will be effective. I have prosecuted homicides, serious crimes of violence and one of the hardest things for a victim to do is to write the statement. However, I know of no victims who have regretted doing so, but many who wished they had.

-Steve Twist

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Details of the death of Patrick F. Rutter on POMC.COM Catch a killer page, Case #41. As the investigation into Pat's death was closed with no answers after 30 days and reopened at the family's request and has at this point simply opened "on paper" with no proactive investigative activity we would like to know if you can tell us if there are any contingencies within any victim's rights laws that apply to requesting an authority other than a local law enforcement department's criminal investigations unit to conduct an investigation into a suspicious death / alleged assault (per Death Certificate). I would think that there would come a point in time when the local authorities should be required to state why they choose not to proactively investigate a suspicion death with so many unconnected dots as in this case.

I am so sorry to read about Pat's death. The laws in each state vary on the question you ask. In some states victims/survivors have the right to go to the grand jury to ask for an investigation. In other states the right does not exist. In some places the attorney general of the state may take a case, in others not. I would be happy to look ino the law in your state. Please give me the details. I am so sorry to read in your e-mail about this terrible crime. Whether the evidence points to the father as the murderer is a question for a forensic pathologist to answer. The circumstances as you report them certainly point to the conclusion that it was the father. As to the legal consequences this is a matter that might differ state to state and you should certainly rely on the advice of your local lawyer.

-Steve Twist

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On 9/9/01, my sister, two nieces were found shot multiple times in the head. Dad/husband found dead by self inflicted gunshot wound to head. My question is can someone else be accused of a the crime other than the dad? My family will soon be in the middle of a wrongful death suit, our attorney advised that if dad is found to have committed an intentional and felonious act our case is settled. How difficult is it to prove?

I am so sorry to read in your e-mail about this terrible crime. Whether the evidence points to the father as the murderer is a question for a forensic pathologist to answer. The circumstances as you report them certainly point to the conclusion that it was the father. As to the legal consequences this is a matter that might differ state to state and you should certainly rely on the advice of your local lawyer. I am so sorry to read in your e-mail about this terrible crime. Whether the evidence points to the father as the murderer is a question for a forensic pathologist to answer. The circumstances as you report them certainly point to the conclusion that it was the father. As to the legal consequences this is a matter that might differ state to state and you should certainly rely on the advice of your local lawyer.

-Steve Twist

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Could you please tell me the procedure (or refer me) to someone regarding the crime victims compensation when it is initially denied. Also, don't we have the right to privacy (outlined in the victims bill of rights) regarding our case? What can a victim do if that right were violated? What recourse does a victim have if they feel there was a mistake made when denying compensation?

This all depends on the State and local jurisdiction in question. As to the right of privacy issue, that also depends on the State.

-Steve Twist

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If a woman is murdered by her husband (less than 2 mos. married and currently sep.)and he is convicted of involuntary manslaughter..does he still have the legal right to act as next of kin, etc. The family want the body moved and placed in the family plot and the incarcerated husband refuses. What are their rights?

These questions are governed by state law so it would depend on the state.

-Steve Twist

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My son was murdered on September 25, 2004 by his mother who took her life at the same time. She was under psychiatric care in the state of Michigan. What sort of legal recourse, if any, do I have?

Answer to this question depends on Michigan law and whether it allows for lawsuits against her mental health care providers. I just don’t know but he should consult a local bar association for a referral.

-Steve Twist

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