91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Defendants will now be required to listen to their victims' impact statements

Michigan Capitol Building
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Governor Snyder signed a bill requiring defendants to listen to their victims' impact statements.

Defendants in the state of Michigan will now be required to listen to their victims' impact statements according to a billapproved by Governor Snyder Wednesday.

Impact statements are often the only opportunity a victim has to share their experiences in a legal setting.

Blanche Cook, an assistant criminal law professor at Wayne State University who specializes in victim's rights, says impact statements are crucial for victims and their families trying to process what happened to them.

"Being able to tell [the defendant] what the crime or what the impact of the crime has had on the family and the victim is a kind of vindication, and also a form of healing."

But beyond that, Cook says some victim's rights advocates think impact statements help the defendants too by allowing them to hear the full effects of their actions.

"Victim's rights advocates believe and advocate that this is healing for the defendant as well-- that the defendant should know the full impact of this crime."

According to the legislation, judges can make an exception to the rule if the defendant is being disruptive or posing a safety threat in the courtroom.

The bill is in honor of Rebekah Bletsch, who was killed while on a jog in western Michigan in 2014. Her convicted murderer, Jeffery Willis, decided to leave the courtroom during her family's victim impact statements in December. Willis reportedly blew a kiss and made an obscene gesture on his way out.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
Related Content