Change allows closed-circuit testimony for child victims

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

On July 1, Indiana will begin allowing the use of closed-circuit testimony in certain court cases. Introduced as House Bill 1215 and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels, the amendment to Indiana Criminal Code 35-37-4-6 may help minimize emotional distress for child victims.

The legislation modifies code to say that for the purposes of verifying the time, content, and circumstances of a child victim’s videotaped testimony in a criminal case, the child may attend a hearing via closed-circuit television. Previously, the code stated the child must be present at the hearing.

Advocates say it’s a step in the right direction in minimizing harm to child victims.

deLaney-ann-mug.jpg DeLaney

Ann DeLaney, executive director of the Julian Center, said, “We have a responsibility to make things as easy as possible, within the confines of the law. Obviously, the defendant has the right to confront the accuser, but taking away barriers that intimidate victims just make sense.

“I used to prosecute child abuse cases – it’s intimidating for a child to come into a courtroom with all those grownups anyway, let alone face their abuser,” she said.

Many other states have been using closed-circuit testimony in cases that involve crimes against children. In Virginia, such a law has existed since 1988.

Virginia Criminal Code 18.2-67.9 is similar to Indiana’s new law, but it offers children additional protections that Indiana does not include.

Lt. Dave Beckner of the Virginia State Police said that the criminal code was modified about 10 years ago to extend the use of closed-circuit testimony to children who are witnesses to murder. He said that each year, the state police’s technical division receives between 70 and 85 requests from courts to install closed-circuit equipment. Between 1994 and 2003, he said, the majority of requests came from courts where a child was testifying as the victim of aggravated sexual battery. In that same period, only four courts requested closed-circuit television for a child’s testimony in a murder case, he said.

Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that while prosecutors tend to avoid putting children on the witness stand whenever possible, their testimony may be needed in cases of domestic violence.

“Children will get called upon if they witnessed an incident of violence, if the offender won’t plead guilty, or if the child is the one who called 911,” she said. “Testifying as a child is so traumatic, and you have to face someone who is either your dad or your mom and talk about what they’ve done – that’s really hard.”

ICADV reports that between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, emergency shelters in Indiana served 4,461 adults and 3,895 children. Berry said that all of the children come to the shelter with a parent and may be either a primary victim or a secondary victim.

“There is a significant overlap between child abuse and domestic violence,” she said.

abuseKerry Hyatt Blomquist, ICADV’s legal director, said domestic violence is the most underreported crime in the nation. She wondered why HB 1215 did not include adult victims of domestic violence as “protected persons,” and why no one asked for ICADV’s input on the bill.

“It would’ve been nice to have been brought to the table,” she said. “I think it’s important to know that there’s a constituency out there that is largely not being considered.”

Blomquist said she understands that constitutional challenges may make it more difficult to extend the same protections to adults as children – a defendant is entitled to confront an alleged victim. In many states that allow children to testify via closed-circuit television, challenges to the law have been heard in court.

In the case of Maryland V. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not guarantee criminal defendants an absolute right to a face-to-face meeting with witnesses against them at trial. The case involved a daycare operator accused of sexual abuse of a child, whose testimony was provided via one-way closed-circuit television, shielding the victim from the defendant. The defense was able to make objections as if the witness were in the courtroom.

In its decision, the Supreme Court held that the Confrontation Clause’s central purpose is to ensure the reliability of evidence against a defendant by subjecting it to rigorous testimony. The court held that if the victim is able to be cross-examined, thereby testing the reliability of testimony, and if shielding the victim upholds an important public policy, then the defendant’s right to confrontation is satisfied. The court also held that Maryland’s asserted interest in protecting child abuse victims was sufficiently compelling to warrant a shielding procedure.

In the divided opinion, four justices dissented.•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise