Legislation inspired by convicted murderer’s actions during Bletsch case
The state House today overwhelmingly approved legislation requiring convicted criminals hear impact statements from victims or their family during a sentencing hearing.
The bill was inspired by a recent Muskegon County case where the convicted murderer of Rebekah Bletsch requested to leave the court before the victim statements. This legislation would prevent that, allowing the judge’s discretion if the offender is disruptive or presents a safety risk to other people in attendance.
“We’re one step closer to not allowing one more Michigan family have their voice taken away by a criminal in the way Rebekah’s loved ones were,” said Hughes, of Montague. “A family was prevented from speaking about how a convicted murderer turned their lives upside down. Victims and their loved ones should have more rights than murderers”
Rebekah Bletsch’s sister and mother were in the Capitol for the vote. Both testified during a Law and Justice Committee meeting in February, supporting the legislation following their experience in the Muskegon County courtroom.
The 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 Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Michigan Attorney General’s Office support Hughes’ legislation.
“The individual who murdered Rebekah and 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. “Judges and the victims should have their say during sentencing without convicted criminals dictating court procedure.”
Following today’s 105-2 vote, House Bill 5407 advances to the Senate for its consideration. If enacted, the legislation will be named the Rebekah Bletsch law, in the victim’s honor.