Defendants will now be required 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 bill approved 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.