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Serial killer must face victims' kin

Judge rules that killer nurse can't skip sentencing hearing

From Sophie Sohn
CNN

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Charles Cullen, a former nurse and admitted serial killer, appears at an earlier hearing in New Jersey.

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Crime, Law and Justice

SOMERVILLE, New Jersey (CNN) -- Serial killer Charles Cullen must listen to statements by relatives of his victims when he is sentenced for 22 murders, a New Jersey judge ruled Friday.

Cullen, a former nurse, had asked the court to waive his appearance at the sentencing March 2.

The move outraged victims' family members, some of whom said addressing Cullen is an important part of their grieving process.

"He has to hear that we're human beings and that our father, son, mother, whoever, were human beings," said John Shanagher, whose father, Jack, was killed by Cullen.

"Hopefully it will give us some sense of justice that it's, after all this time, finally done," he added.

Superior Court Judge Paul W. Armstrong also ruled Friday that Cullen will be allowed to donate a kidney to a friend after he is sentenced.

Where the organ will be harvested remains an issue. Cullen wants to have the operation performed in New York. New Jersey officials say it must be done in that state.

Cullen has pleaded guilty to murdering 29 hospital patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and attempting to murder six others, with drug injections.

As part of his plea agreement, he has been working with law enforcement officials to identify additional victims. He originally told authorities he had killed up to 40 patients in the course of his 16-year nursing career.

Armstrong ruled Friday that Cullen "possesses no fundamental right" by law to be absent from his sentencing, when the court will hear statements by the victims' families.

Cullen had withdrawn his request, but the judge went ahead with a ruling to prevent Cullen from changing his mind later.

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