Numerous studies have examined the psychological sequelae that result from the murder of a loved one. Except for the death penalty, however, sparse attention has been paid to the impact of the murderer’s sentence on homicide survivors’ well-being. Given the steadfastness of the public’s opinion that the death penalty brings satisfaction and closure to survivors, it is surprising that there has been no systematic inquiry directly with survivors about whether obtaining the ultimate punishment affects their healing. This Study used in-person interviews with a randomly selected sample of survivors from four time periods to examine the totality of the ultimate penal sanction (UPS) process and its longitudinal impact on their lives. Moreover, it assessed the differential effect of two types of UPS by comparing survivors’ experiences in Texas, a death penalty state, and Minnesota, a life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) state. Comparing states highlights differences primarily during the postconviction stage, specifically with respect to the appeals process and in regard to survivor well-being. In Minnesota, survivors of adjudicated cases show higher levels of physical, psychological, and behavioral health. This Study’s findings have implications for trial strategy and policy development.

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