Nassar, Muskegon County cases show importance of victim impact statements
State Rep. Klint Kesto, chair of the House Law and Justice Committee, today voted for legislation to require anyone convicted of a crime to hear the victim or their family give impact statements during a sentencing hearing.
The committee heard testimony on the bill during its Feb. 6 meeting, before it was approved today in a bipartisan vote.
“As a former prosecutor, I have fought over and over for families ripped apart by crime and I know how important it was for the people affected to have their voices heard,” Kesto said. “We heard from a family that was robbed of the opportunity to heal by a convicted murderer. We should not allow that to happen again in a Michigan courtroom.”
The legislation was inspired by a Muskegon County murder trial where the convicted offender requested to leave his Dec. 18 sentencing hearing before the family of Rebekah Bletsch made their statements, blowing kisses and making an obscene gesture to her family on his way out of the courtroom.
Michigan has no specific legal requirement that anyone convicted of a crime be forced to listen to statements. The legislation requires the defendant attend sentencing unless it is determined to be a safety risk or a disruption to the court.
With the victim’s statements given in Ingham and Eaton counties during the recent sexual assault cases against Larry Nassar, Kesto emphasized the rights of the victims and their families.
“With everything that comes out of a court case, those affected by crime deserve a voice. That is their right.” Kesto said. “In recent weeks, we have seen how powerful these victim impact statements can be. We must make sure offenders know the magnitude of their actions.”
House Bill 5407 advances to the House for its consideration.