The New York State Legislature has approved a measure that would protect children from having to testify in person in a courtroom during a criminal proceeding if a judge determines that the appearance could cause the child to suffer serious mental or emotional harm, State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., the Senate sponsor of the legislation, announced today.
Senator Fuschillo, (R-Merrick) said, "As adults it is our responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of children who are needed to testify in criminal trials. We cannot risk harming these vulnerable witnesses further by forcing them to be physically present in the courtroom. This measure would provide more opportunities for child witnesses to testify outside of court."
The legislation (S. 5049) would allow child witnesses who have been declared "vulnerable" by a judge to testify via two-way closed circuit television.
Under current law, child witnesses can be afforded the right to testify out of the courtroom by a two-way closed circuit television if there are extraordinary circumstances and if testifying in court would cause "severe mental or emotional harm." This standard, however, does not protect enough children who might suffer substantial emotional or psychological harm if forced to be present in the courtroom.
Senator Fuschillo’s measure would eliminate the extraordinary circumstances requirement and allow judges more leeway in determining if a child witness should be offered the right to testify out of court through closed circuit television.
The legislation now goes to the Governor for consideration.
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