State Rep. unveils bill to force convicts to listen to impact statements

MONTAGUE, Mich. - One West Michigan State Representative was appalled by the behavior of a convicted murderer in court and has unveiled legislation to make convicts listen to victim impact statements.

Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, unveiled the legislation Thursday which would require anyone facing a sentence of life in prison to hear the impact statements of victims and their families.

Monday, Jeffrey Willis, who was convicted of the murder of Rebekah Bletsch, requested to leave his sentencing hearing before the Bletsch family made their statements. Willis was walked out of court in Muskegon while the family and others in the courtroom shouted and called him a coward.  He turned as he walked out and blew a kiss to the family.

"Anyone convicted of such a heinous crime should be required to hear directly from family members on how their lives will be forever impacted," Hughes said in a press release. "His request was absurd and extremely painful for the family involved. Anyone convicted of murder shouldn’t have the right to dictate to the courts when he would like to leave the courtroom."

Hughes tells FOX 17 that the judge could still have the convict removed if they are causing a disturbance that would impact the victims.

There currently is no requirement for a convict to remain in court to listen to impact statements.  Court officials and the defense attorney said Monday that even if Willis had stayed in court, there isn't anything they could do to make him listen and he could have caused more of a disturbance.

Hughes says she hopes to introduce the bill when the House returns after the holidays.


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