Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania girl will testify remotely in sex abuse trial

Among the provisions in the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment is the guarantee that criminal defendants have a right to face accusers. States including Pennsylvania have altered constitutions to reduce the psychological suffering for children in court.

 

Child sexual abuse victims often fear to be near alleged attackers. Courts sometimes accommodate a child's reluctance to be in the same room as the defendant by employing remote testimony.

 

A 2004 Pennsylvania statute permits the defendant-accuser "confrontation" to take place through video feeds or recordings. The child testifies in the presence of the defendant's attorney. The accused has the right to see the testimony and consult with the lawyer prior to cross examination.

 

A 10-year-old Erie County girl set to take the witness stand in an upcoming sexual abuse trial had severe emotional reactions before two preliminary hearings. The episodes prompted prosecutors to request video testimony.

 

The judge spoke with the girl's mother, a child forensic specialist and the child before deciding that the girl could testify remotely. The child's parent said her daughter was so afraid that she held on to and refused to let go of a chair outside the hearings. The girl also began wetting the bed after the earlier court dates.

 

The defendant is accused of forcing the child to perform sex acts including oral sex for more than three years. The girl's mother told the judge she witnessed the child abuse in December. The defendant was arrested and imprisoned on $100,000 bond.

The trial will address charges of child welfare endangerment, corruption of minors, assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. The accused man contends he is not guilty.

 

Sex crimes victims may feel released from fear following the conviction of an attacker. A minor victim's parents may also seek damages for their child's harm through a civil court. A jury award could defray the costs of the victim's extended or lifetime counseling.

 

Source:  goerie.com, "Judge: Child does not have to face accused abuser" Lisa Thompson, Jun. 02, 2013

 

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