Crime victims must be given a chance to have their say in court before sentencing, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Recorder reports that the court ruled to clear up confusion surrounding the 2004 federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which establishes “the right to be reasonably heard” during sentencing. The court said that a Los Angeles judge erred when he refused to let W. Patrick Kenna speak at the sentencing hearing of Zvi Leichner, who was convicted along with his father of scamming millions from Kenna and other investors. “The criminal justice system has long functioned on the assumption that crime victims should behave like good Victorian children — seen but not heard,” wrote Judge Alex Kozinski wrote. The law has now changed that, he said.
Kenna’s attorney, John Case Jr., noted that it took more than eight months for Kenna’s case to be decided, even though the law directs that such petitions be decided within 72 hours. Kozinski acknowledged “the inexcusable delay,” adding that “it may serve as a small comfort” to know that the court is setting up procedures to quickly handle such petitions in the future. Judge Daniel Friedman said that while Kenna had a right to be heard, he doubted that in a case with 100 victims and five co-defendants, every victim would have the right to speak at every co-defendant’s sentencing.