New law by Rep. Goodman would protect rape victims

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New law by Rep. Goodman would protect rape victims

HB 1001 bans accused rapists from cross-examining victims in court

OLYMPIA — Rape victims wouldn’t be victimized again in court by their attackers under legislation introduced by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland).

“Rapists have discovered they can take over the courtroom and torture their victims for hours — or days — if they act as their own attorney,” Goodman said. “It’s a perversion of the justice system and this new law would put an end to it.”

This year in King County, a 21-year-old rape victim ran to the roof of the courthouse and threatened to jump, telling prosecutors she’d rather kill herself than be cross-examined by her accused rapist.

Another rape victim was quoted in The Seattle Times as saying she understood why rape victims feel this way. She herself was raped at knifepoint in her own home, while her children slept, and was cross-examined by her accused rapist for two straight days during a trial where he served as his own attorney.

“The rapists acting as their own attorney aren’t trying to be found innocent by the jury,” Goodman said. “They’re taking one last chance to be in control of their victims again. It’s sadistic and wrong.”

A similar idea was introduced last session by Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), who did not seek re-election. That bill passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate after fears that it unconstitutionally told the courts how to operate.

Williams worked with Goodman to give the legislation another chance.

“I’ve heard heart-wrenching stories of sexual abuse survivors being revictimized in a courtroom by their abusers,” Williams said. “Our justice system cannot endorse courtroom theater that leaves witnesses incapacitated with fear and unable to testify.”

Goodman met with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen to craft a new proposal that would be constitutional, and Goodman says the courts agree with the need for reform and want to make this work.

House Bill 1001 direct the courts to develop rules so that judges could (a) order a stand-in attorney to question rape victims or (b) have accused rapists question victims by closed-circuit television.

The bill is the second piece of legislation introduced for the 2011 session. It will now be referred to a House committee before moving toward a vote by the full House.

The text of House Bill 1001:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1001.pdf

KOMO 4 story about House Bill 1001:

http://www.komonews.com/news/problemsolvers/111497159.html?tab=video

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