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.”
“He gets to live. They’ll never see their family member, their sister, their daughter ever, ever again, and at least he can do is listen to what they have to say and how it’s changed their lives forever.”
Democratic Representative Stephanie Chang abstained. She says she’s worried the bill would take away a judge’s discretion at sentencing, even though there are some exceptions in the bill.
“There’s the possibility that there might be other reasons why the judge might want to allow that defendant to waive that right. So it’s something that I’m still thinking about.”
Supporters of the bill say defendants should be required to hear about the impact of their crimes on victims.