At Ariel Castro's Sentencing, Victims Speak Out

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 01, 2013 1:24 PM

Ariel Castro has been sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for the kidnapping, torture, and rape of three women whom he imprisoned in his Cleveland home for as long as 11 years.

At Castro's sentencing hearing Thursday, one of his victims, Michelle Knight, spoke publicly about her ordeal. Relatives of the two other victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, also had choice words for the convicted kidnapper.

"You took 11 years of my life away. I spent 11 years in hell, now your hell is just beginning," Knight said, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Victims Have Their Say

Knight continued, "I will overcome all this that has happened, but you will face hell for eternity."

Amanda Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, told the court that their mother passed away in 2006 without knowing what had happened to Amanda. "It is impossible to put into words how much it hurts," Serrano said.

A cousin of Gina DeJesus, Sylvia Colon, also addressed the court, saying her cousin is living as "a survivor, not a victim," The Plain Dealer reports.

Victims' Rights at a Sentencing Hearing

Survivor and victim statements are not uncommon at a sentencing hearing -- a court hearing before a judge where a defendant's sentence is imposed.

In Ohio, for example, the law explicitly allows victims to make a statement before a criminal sentence is imposed. If a victim's statement is written, then the court can redact parts that are deemed not relevant before it distributes copies to the defendant and others in court.

However, under Ohio law, written victim statements must remain confidential, and do not become a part of the public record. Such statements must be returned to the court immediately after sentencing.

Judges, however, are obliged to consider victim statements -- written and oral -- along with other factors, in imposing criminal sentences, according to Ohio law.

While state laws are different, victim statements are allowed before sentencing in all 50 states, according to the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime. To learn about your rights as a victim in your state, you'll want to check with the court or with your victim advocate.

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