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Bill: Victims Get Voice in Major Felony Sentencing

Scales of Justice

PIERRE – Victims of the most serious felonies would be assured the right to testify at sentencing under a South Dakota legislative panel’s change to a marginally related bill on juvenile homicide offenders.

The bill initially was introduced to make South Dakota compatible with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on mandatory life sentences for juveniles. The bill addresses that, but versions passed by the Senate and House differed on what factors could be considered at felony sentencing.

A compromise reached by a negotiating committee says judges must consider four factors: aggravating circumstances, mitigating circumstances, background information and victim’s impact. But it limited the requirement to Class A, B and C felonies.

The amended version must pass both chambers.

The widow of slain correctional officer Ronald Johnson urged that victims have a voice.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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