SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would expand the rights of crime victims to give statements before a sentencing was approved, 54-0, on Wednesday by the Illinois Senate.
The bill, SB 1528, was sponsored by Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and is the product of four years of work by the lawmaker who tried to pass similar legislation when he was a member of the House.
His original bill allowed relatives to speak at a sentencing hearing, but that measure was opposed by judges.
"They didn't want to clog up the courtroom with 50 people testifying, so this will still get the information in front of them," he said. "... It will get it in front of them in a structured way and allow them to look at it as part of the pre-sentence investigation."
Under the legislation, first-degree relatives, such as parents and grandparents, would be able to provide written statements in felony cases as part of a pre-sentence report.
"The court's going to make the decision it's going to make, but justice only works when it has all the information," Rose said.
The legislation grew out of a domestic-abuse case in Coles County, which was part of Rose's old House district. In that case, the parents of an abuse victim had information that Rose said might have been useful to the court at sentencing but were not allowed to present the evidence. The defendant was sentenced to probation and later held his wife and children hostage at gunpoint in a second incident.
"What happened in Coles County was essentially a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, where you had an abused spouse who still believed that the bad guy was a good guy," Rose said. "But her loved ones could see that this guy wasn't good. I remember the grandmother saying, 'My daughter has made up her mind. But I'm here to save my grandchildren.' That's what got me, that statement from the grandparent."
SB 1528 now moves to the House for its consideration.