Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. today announced a new state law that will 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. The new law will allow child witnesses who have been declared "vulnerable" by a judge to testify via two-way closed circuit television.
Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who sponsored the new law, 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 new law will provide more opportunities for child witnesses to testify outside of court."
Previously, child witnesses were afforded the right to testify out of the courtroom by a two-way closed circuit television if there were extraordinary circumstances and if testifying in court would cause severe mental or emotional harm. This standard, however, did not protect enough children who might suffer substantial emotional or psychological harm if forced to be present in the courtroom. Senator Fuschillo’s new law eliminates the "extraordinary circumstances" requirement and allows judges more leeway in determining if a child witness should be offered the right to testify out of court through closed circuit television.
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