People convicted of crimes would have to listen to victim statements at their sentencing hearings – if a bill making its way through the state Legislature becomes law.
Last December, Jeffrey Willis was sentenced for murdering a woman while she was out jogging. He asked to leave the courtroom before the victim’s family gave their impact statements. The judge agreed.
Republican Representative Holly Hughes is a bill sponsor. She says Willis never should have been allowed to leave the courtroom.
“The perpetrator, the murderer, should not have more rights than the families to be heard about how this is going to impact their lives every day.” Says Hughes.
Critics of the bill say it takes away a judge’s discretion. Although there are exceptions in the law, they say there could be other reasons a judge would not want a defendant in court for victim impact statements.
The bill is currently waiting for a full House vote. Supporters of the bill say defendants should be required to hear about the impact of their crimes on victims.