Vanderbilt Law Review


Donald J. Hall

First Page



A theoretical underpinning of the American system of criminal justice is the notion that a criminal misdeed is a wrong against the entire society.' Accordingly, the local, state and federal governments, acting as the representatives of society, assume the duty and responsibility of prosecuting the individual wrongdoer. While the individual victim of a crime obviously is the party directly" wronged," society interjects and institutes the formal proceeding to ascertain criminal responsibility and determine the appropriate sanction to be imposed upon the accused. This constitutes a basic distinction between civil and criminal cases; the aggrieved individual is the named litigant in a civil case (the plaintiff); in a criminal case, the government prosecutes the defendant... The purpose of this article is to describe and evaluate the ways in which a victim can influence the course of a criminal case, from investigation and arrest to parole release and clemency. Data concerning the roles that the victim may play in a criminal case have been gathered by the author through personal interviews with participants in the criminal justice system in Nashville, Tennessee. These participants include police officers, defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, judges, probation officers, parole board officials, and members of the Governor's staff.

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Criminal Law Commons