Willis sentencing prompts legislation to force murderers to watch impact statements
LANSING, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) —
A shocking day in a Muskegon County court room caught the attention of Michigan lawmakers.
When Jeffrey Willis was sentenced on Monday for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch he requested to leave the courtroom right before her family shared their grief and sorrow.
Political Reporter Nick Minock spoke with a lawmaker who says that was outrageous and insensitive and will introduce a bill to make convicted murderers watch victim impact statements.
State Representative Holly Hughes, R-Muskegon County, said the rights of murderers shouldn't trump the right of victims.
Hughes said, "They have lost her forever. They will never get her back and he gets to live. The least he can do is sit and listen to the family and the impact on their lives forever."
Hughes is introducing a bill to the Michigan legislature inspired by what happened during the Willis sentencing.
She said, "He asked the judge if he could leave the courtroom right before the impact statements from the family and there is nothing in the law to preclude it and he was allowed to leave and on the way out he blew a kiss to the family adding insult to injury."
When Hughes saw what happened to Rebekah Bletsch's family she combed through state law and found Willis had a legal right to leave the court room during the impact statements of the family.
She said, "It's just flat out wrong. I was just appalled, infuriated, and the whole community was talking about it."
She is working to force convicted murderers, like Willis, to watch the full statements of the victims. Her bill would also apply to rapists.
She said, "Really, this is about their family."
And the families of others, because this isn't the last time we'll hear about Willis. He was convicted in November of murdering Bletsch after authorities believe he wanted to sexually torture her before killing her.
Hughes said, “He's an outrageous monster and he's going to be tried for other cases next year, as well, and I just want to make sure that our families, our victims, are represented and that he can't hurt them again the court room."
The bill is written and she will try to pass it as quickly as possible in 2018, before Willis appears in court for the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa.