I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the Supreme Court's decision that struck down the use of victim-impact statements in capital cases {front page, June 16}.

This decision gives an entirely wrong message to the nation's judiciary and to our society. Our organs of government should firmly support families, citizen security and an orderly and peaceful society. This decision gives the strong impression, once again, that the nation's highest court views our country's murderers as more deserving of solicitude than their victims and their victims' families.

In the majority opinion, Justice Powell argues that admitting "emotionally charged opinions as to what conclusions the jury should draw from the evidence is clearly inconsistent with the reasoned decision-making we require in capital cases." However, the defendant is already permitted to introduce emotionally charged opinions in the form of mitigating evidence at the sentencing portion of the trial. Why this double standard in favor of the criminal?

Emotions play a real role in the lives of citizens, and we can't pretend otherwise. A criminal case involving murder cannot be presented in such a sanitized fashion that emotion is absent. Emotion legitimately plays a real part in such cases, and the courts, attorneys and juries must come to grips with these emotional components in the same way they must deal with the legal and procedural elements.

To suggest that juries cannot properly assess emotional statements and make their own decisions as to what significance to afford them is insulting. The whole point of the jury system is that the average juror/citizen, by virtue of his or her own life experience, can in fact properly weigh the elements of a case. To deny juries the ability to hear what the real-life results of a murder are -- in relation to the victims' families -- prevents them from properly viewing and assessing the totality of the crime. A murder, after all, affects not only the victim, but also the family, the community and society at large.

John Donne said it best: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in all mankind." With this decision the Supreme Court has diminished all who are law-abiding and who have long been outraged by the pampering of brutal murderers by the highest court in the land. JOHN A. COLLINS Springfield