The Michigan House of Representatives Wednesday passed a bill that would ensure criminals will be required to listen to victim impact statements at sentencing.
Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, worked with the family of murder victim Rebekah Bletsch to create House Bill 5407, which will be named the Rebekah Bletsch Law if passed. The family of Bletsch was present at the vote Thursday.
Bletsch was shot and killed while jogging near her Dalton Township home in June 2014. Almost two years later, Jeffrey Willis was charged with her murder, which he was convicted by a jury of in November 2017. During the sentencing hearing in December, the judge gave Willis permission to leave the courtroom before family could address him.
Representatives approved the measure 105-2, moving it to the Michigan Senate.
“A monster was convicted of murdering a lovely young woman,” Hughes said. “During the sentencing he indicated his desire to leave the court room before the family of the woman was able to give their victim impact statement. Because the judge was unable to find any law that require that he stay, his request was granted.”
Willis’ request to leave the courtroom was highly unusual, as most convicts do hear them. Former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted his patients under the guise of medical treatment, listened to days of victim impact statements in both Ingham and Eaton counties as required under the terms of his plea agreement.
Willis was also forced to listen to the victim impact statements at some point, as the deputies who took him to the state prison inmate intake center played them for him on a loop.