Little more than six months after updating the rights of New Jersey’s crime victims, two lawmakers are looking to further strengthen the victim’s standing in court with legislation that would force a defendant to attend his sentencing to hear victim impact statements.
The bill introduced on Monday by Assembly members Anthony M. Bucco and BettyLou DeCroce, both R-Morris, was prompted by a Sussex County case in which the convicted murderer is seeking to skip his sentencing hearing.
The state Supreme Court is currently considering whether to compel Guiseppe Tedesco to attend his sentencing for the murder of Alyssa Ruggieri in her Hopatcong home three years ago. It is the first time the highest court has heard such a case.
Both a Superior Court judge and the Appellate Division denied Tedesco’s request to waive his right to appear at his sentencing. Michele Ruggieri, the victim’s mother, who is being represented by the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center, challenged Tedesco’s request and is seeking to force him to be in court when she gives her impact statement.
Richard Pompelio, who founded the law center in 1992 after the murder of his son Tony, argued before the Supreme Court last week that the rights victims have under the state constitution and the Crime Victims Bill of Rights give them the ability to demand that the defendant be present to hear the victims’ impact statement.
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