Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Washington State Law Allows Previous Victims To Testify

The sex crimes law has been updated in Washington State where I was raped at age 15. The newest change means that despite the statute of limitations having long ago kicked in for my rape if I learn that my rapist is facing similar allegations there is a possibility that I could testify against him.

I would definitely volunteer to testify about my rape if I learned my rapist recently did to someone else what he did to me. It doesn't matter that I'd have to travel halfway across the country to do so.

From the Seattle Times:

Trembling, the woman, now 49, described dealing with confusion, fear and physical injuries after the man approached her while she was spending the night at a relative's California home and molested her.

She didn't tell anyone about the abuse, and the statute of limitations expired. Roger Alan Scherner, the man she accused of the abuse — who has since been accused by more than half a dozen relatives of rape and child molestation over several decades — was never prosecuted.

But a new state law is allowing her painful story to be heard in an effort to prosecute Scherner, 79, on child- rape and child-molestation charges involving a relative who was allegedly molested during a family vacation in Bellevue in 2002 when she was 7.

The law went into effect in June and is being used for the first time in King County by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Julie Kays, who is prosecuting Scherner. It makes it much easier for alleged prior victims of a defendant to testify as witnesses in a current sexual-offense case.

I still want the statute of limitations for rape to be eliminated in Washington State and elsewhere and I want any limitation on how long victims can wait to report their rapes eliminated, but this new law goes a long way toward stopping serial sex criminals from assuming that any new victim will be the only victim allowed to testify to the jury about what that sex criminal has done.

As I've said before because of Washington's statute of limitations for the rape of anyone 14 or older, my rapist was legally free and clear after 1 year since I was unable to even think about reporting him in that first year.

During that first year I did reach out to 2 different professional organizations but both failed to even consider the possibility that my trauma over the loss of my virginity was due to rape not due to some nebulous morning-after regret.

If this new law sends chills down the spines of serial rapists who thought their victims from years past had been legally silenced forever, I'm thrilled. Victims who were originally seen as non-credible -- or like me didn't consider reporting until it was too late -- may be able to help stop serial rapists.

If a conviction doesn't stop these rapists then the prospect of all of their previous victims testifying against them at the next trial may cause some of these predators to decide to stop before their luck at evading justice runs out.

If this law gets used and can withstand legal challenges, I want to see this added to the criminal statutes of all jurisdictions.

Hat tip: Sex Crimes

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:21 AM   3 comments links to this post


At September 20, 2008 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know the specific wording of this law or how to find it? Or how to find if my state has a similar law?

At September 20, 2008 4:17 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, Here's a link to the Final version of WA state Senate Bill 6933.

The new section includes:

(1) In a criminal action in which the defendant is accused of a sex offense, evidence of the defendant's commission of another sex offense or sex offenses is admissible, notwithstanding Evidence Rule 404(b), if the evidence is not inadmissible pursuant to Evidence Rule 403.

(6) When evaluating whether evidence of the defendant's commission of another sexual offense or offenses should be excluded pursuant to Evidence Rule 403, the trial judge shall consider the following factors:

(a) The similarity of the prior acts to the acts charged;
(b) The closeness in time of the prior acts to the acts charged;
(c) The frequency of the prior acts;
(d) The presence or lack of intervening circumstances;
(e) The necessity of the evidence beyond the testimonies already offered at trial;
(f) Whether the prior act was a criminal conviction;
(g) Whether the probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence; and
(h) Other facts and circumstances.

At September 20, 2008 4:36 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, since the previous link I gave is to a PDF document it doesn't link to other information on that bill. Here the Senate Bill 6933 Summary which includes information on this bill's sponsors.


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