Admission of Victim Impact Evidence in Florida

The admission of victim impact evidence is protected by article I, section 16, of the Florida Constitution, and is also specifically governed by section 921.141(7), Florida Statutes (2009), which states: "Once the prosecution has provided evidence of the existence of one or more aggravating circumstances as described in subsection (5), the prosecution may introduce, and subsequently argue, victim impact evidence to the jury. Such evidence shall be designed to demonstrate the victim's uniqueness as an individual human being and the resultant loss to the community's members by the victim's death. Characterizations and opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence shall not be permitted as part of victim impact evidence." A trial court's decision to admit victim impact testimony is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Braddy v. State, 111 So. 3d 810, 857 (Fla. 2012); Deparvine v. State, 995 So. 2d 351, 378 (Fla. 2008). In Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808 (1991), the United States Supreme Court held that the State may seek to introduce victim impact evidence if it concludes that such evidence "about the victim and about the impact of the murder on the victim's family is relevant to the jury's decision as to whether or not the death penalty should be imposed." Id. at 827.