Lawmakers OK requiring defendants to hear impact statements

Rebekah Bletsch

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s Legislature has passed a bill requiring defendants to listen to victim impact statements, diminishing the chances the man convicted of killing Rebekah Bletsch would be able to walk away from such statements during another murder trial.

The House voted 105-3 Tuesday for the legislation created to honor Bletsch, a 36-year-old who was murdered in 2014 while jogging in western Michigan. In December her convicted murderer, Jeffrey Willis, left the courtroom during victim statements — while blowing a kiss and flashing an obscene hand gesture.

Should Gov. Rick Snyder sign the legislation, it could become law before Willis is possibly sentenced in another trial unfolding now. He is accused of murdering 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa.

Willis’ attorney says no evidence connects his client with the crime.

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