Senate passes witness protection law

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TRENTON — The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho to expand protections for survivors and witnesses, by removing the age restriction for testifying via closed circuit television in certain sex crime, domestic violence, and child abuse cases.

Currently, only those 16-years-of-age or younger are permitted to testify via CCTV.

"It is unconscionable to force someone to confront a violent criminal face-to-face when we know that this will only increase their pain. They shouldn’t have to live with that trauma or cope with a constant fear of retribution," Senator Oroho said. "No one should be blocked from testifying via closed-circuit television, just because of their age. All survivors and witnesses should be treated with compassion and respect in a court room."

CCTV is defined as any closed-circuit, videoconferencing or other audio-visual electronic technology capable of producing a simultaneous, one-way broadcast from a survivor or witness to a defendant in a separate physical location. The technology allows the judge and jury to view their testimony and cross-examination in real time, while excluding that survivor or witness from the traumatic experience of directly hearing or viewing the defendant during the proceedings.

Under current law, witnesses age 16 or younger may provide testimony via CCTV in prosecutions for certain crimes involving sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, and child abuse, if a judge determines there is a substantial likelihood that the he or she would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.

Senator Oroho's bill would permit a survivor or witness of any age to testify via CCTV in certain prosecutions, including domestic violence that coincides with a sexual assault, endangering the welfare of, abusing, or neglecting a child; and human trafficking.

“I am proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis with Senator Turner to empower survivors to confront their abusers with fear. This law can also help us drastically reduce the number of crimes that go unreported every year,” Senator Oroho said. "We have to do more to keep people who commit these atrocious acts of violence off the streets and away from our families. It is my hope that this legislation will encourage even more people to come forward and seek out the justice they deserve."
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