The House Law and Justice Committee today approved Rep. Holly Hughes’ legislation requiring convicted offenders to hear impact statements from victims or their family during a sentencing hearing.
The vote comes a week after Rebekah Bletsch’s sister and mother spoke to the committee, supporting the legislation following their experience in a Muskegon County case where Bletsch’s convicted murderer requested to leave the court before the victim statements.
“We’re one step closer to not having one more Michigan family having their voice taken away by a criminal,” said Hughes, of Montague. “Jessica Josephson and Debra Reamer spoke from the heart about how a convicted murderer took away a key part of their healing process, while also insulting them on his way out the door. Never again.”
Hughes’ legislation will update the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim Rights Act, which set the procedures currently used in Michigan courtrooms for protection of victims. The bill requires the defendant to be in attendance for sentencing unless the individual is determined by the court to be disruptive or a safety risk to court members.
The Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Michigan Attorney General’s Office are in support of the legislation.
“This legislation is a top priority for me because anyone convicted of a crime absolutely should be required to hear directly from the victim or their loved ones about how their lives are impacted,” Hughes said. “The victims deserve to be heard in all cases.”
House Bill 5407 advances to the House for its consideration. If enacted, the legislation will be named the Rebekah Bletsch law, in the victim’s honor.