Supreme Court Reviewing Rules to Protect Sexual Assault Victims

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemPoliticsLocal GovernmentCrimeSexual AssaultAssault

The Washington Supreme Court is now reviewing new rules that would better shield sexual assault victims in court from accused attackers who represent themselves.

It all started after the Salvador Cruz case.  Cruz, acting as his own attorney, cross examined all six of his victims and was eventually sentenced to 53 years in prison.  Victims in the case say the trial was unbearable.

“I understand he has to let him ask questions but he asked the same questions over and over again.  He just whittled us down to nothing," said Brandi Wood.

After one witness in the case nearly jumped from the roof of the King County Courthouse rather than face Cruz in court, State Representative Roger Goodman drafted legislation to protect those witnesses

"The Legislature can't be stepping on the Judiciary dictating what can and can't happen in a courtroom.  That's up to the judges to come up with their own rule and here it is," says Goodman.

State Superior Court Judges have drafted a rule allowing them to place certain restrictions on sexual assault defendants who represent themselves.  Specifically, a judge can require the defendant to stay seated, speak through a third party, or by closed circuit TV when questioning an alleged victim.

"The judge needs to use their own discretion based on what they're seeing in front of them at that time in order to protect everybody in the courtroom," says Judge Stephen Warning.

"I've taken a look at the language and it does provide a lot of protections for these victims so they don't have to be re-victimized on the stand again.  We're making a lot of progress," says Goodman.

The Supreme Court will hold a hearing in its Rules Committee before deciding whether or not to adopt the proposal.

Representative Goodman says he will not kill his bill until the Supreme Court adopts the court rule, which could be 90 days or more.  Goodman's bill, 1001, is expected to make it to the House floor for a vote later this week before moving onto the Senate.












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