Source: (2009) Law and Contemporary Problems. 72(2):1-26.

For the families of murder victims, the grief, anger, and pain a murder leaves in its wake must to some degree unfold in public, institutional settings. Grieving is rarely an entirely private, internal experience. In every culture, grief is experienced and expressed against a background of social expectations and, ideally, within a network of social support. The expectations facing murder survivors1 include the grim task of cooperating with the criminal justice system, a task that may include a public trial and intense media scrutiny. Over the last couple of decades, this grim task has undergone a “symbolic transformation,”2 particularly in the death penalty context. Every aspect of the capital system has been recast as serving therapeutic goals—specifically, helping survivors heal and attain closure. This incursion of the language of emotion and healing into the legal realm has been insufficiently examined, especially given its enormous practical and symbolic consequences for the operation of the death penalty.(excerpt)


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