Wednesday, February 9, 2011

KOMO TV: Sexual Assault and the 6th Amendment

State Rep. Roger Goodman’s (D-45) bill to shield plaintiffs in sexual assault cases from having to be questioned by defendants in court (which we wrote about last month), came up for a hearing this week.

KOMO TV was there and has footage of the hearing, featuring defendants’ rights advocates like lobbyist Bob Cooper waving a copy of the little red legislative rule book that gets handed out to legislators at the beginning of the session. That rule book, Cooper notes, says legislators are supposed to uphold the constitution, which includes the 6th Amendment—trial rights such as a defendant’s right to confront their accuser.

The ACLU is also against Goodman’s bill. (Goodman, a drug reform advocate is typically a strong ally of the ACLU.)

ACLU lobbyist Shankar Narayan acknowledges that it’s a legitimate issue to protect plaintiffs from potential harassment by defendants (a rape victim threatened to commit suicide last year rather than face the defendant). But Narayan says it’s not the legislative branch’s role to control the courtroom. “Judges have the tools to protect plaintiffs” Narayan says, “and that’s the place to figure out how to deal with this issue. Rep. Goodman’s bill prescribes a solution, and that’s to take away a defendant’s rights.”