Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty and Joseph Lagana to allow victims and witnesses of domestic violence and sexual assault to testify against their abusers via closed circuit television under certain circumstances gained approval from an Assembly panel on Monday.
“Having to recount an abusive relationship in front of your abuser can be unnerving for an individual who’s been battered,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “For children who may have witnessed their mother being abused, it can be equally frightening to have to testify in a courtroom with the abuser, especially if the abuser is a parent. Allowing victims and young witnesses to testify via closed circuit television allows them to confront their abusers without fear.”
The bill (A-1199) would permit both victims and witnesses of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, among other violent crimes, to deliver testimony via closed circuit television, regardless of their age, assuming clear and convincing evidence standards are satisfied.
Currently, only victims and witnesses of sexual assault under the age of 16 are allowed to testify via closed circuit television.
“Domestic abuse is traumatic. Some victims are so frightful of their abusers that they would rather not press charges or even testify in court for fear of retribution,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill makes it easier for victims to come forward and get justice.”
Under the bill, the court may, following a hearing, order the taking of testimony out of the presence of the jury, defendant, or spectators. Closed circuit testimony would be allowed if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.
“Often times, victims struggle over whether or not to report their abusers because they fear for their safety,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill would help victims hold their abusers accountable without fear of doing so under their glare in a courtroom.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.