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State House Passes Bills Focused On Victims’ Rights

Door leading to courtroom
Mark Bashore

Victims would have more rights under bills passed by the state House. The legislation would require defendants be physically present in the courtroom when a victim or victim’s family give an impact statement at sentencing. 

Bill sponsor Holly Hughes says she was inspired by an event that took place in Muskegon County.

A man convicted of murdering a young woman was allowed to leave the courtroom before impact statements were read.

“We want to just make sure that victims’ rights are well above murderers’ rights and so we’re going to move this as fast as we possibly can," said Rep. Hughes.

The House also passed legislation that would prevent someone who is convicted or has a juvenile adjudication for criminal sexual conduct against another student from being in the same school building as the victim.

Lawmakers say there’s currently a gap in the law – school officials can’t kick a student out of school unless the sexual assault happens on school grounds.

Republican Representative Lana Theis is a bill sponsor.

“Requiring the victim to publically beg for protection and carry this burden is simply unacceptable," said Rep. Theis. "It’s unconscionable that we have created a justice system where the victim is the one who is forced to change schools in order to find protection and safety.”

Critics of the legislation say students should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

The House also passed a bill that would require defendants listen to impact statements of victims at sentencing.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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