Skip to main content

Attn Advocates: Opportunity to Stop Family Violence

This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will have profound implications on the prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, child abuse and child sexual assault cases. Hammon v. Indiana focuses on admitting victim comments into evidence when the victim is not actually in court to testify or be cross-examined. Stop Family Violence needs your stories for a legal brief that will help the Supreme Court find the right balance between the rights of the accused and safety and rights of victims.

For many victims testifying in court is too traumatic or dangerous to even consider. The victim may fear, and stalkers and abusers may have threatened, further harm to the victim or other family members if the victim testifies. Rape victims may find the thought of reliving the rape by testifying too much to bear. Young children who have been sexually or physically abused may be too terrified to sit in a courtroom to confront their abuser.

Since the mid 1990’s, prosecutors have used evidence-based, victimless prosecutions to combat this problem, using such things as 911 calls, police and medical reports, DNA evidence and in the case of child sexual assault victims – using videotaped interviews or live video from a remote location – to allow prosecution to proceed without endangering or retraumatizing the victims. These victimless, evidence-based prosecutions have been highly successful in allowing prosecutors to hold offenders accountable while keeping victims safe.

However, two years ago, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Crawford v. Washington, the court limited the types of evidence that could be used in court, saying that “testimonial” evidence was not admissible unless the victim/witness was available for cross-examination. However the court did not specify what counts as “testimonial” evidence and what does not. For example, are 911 calls admissible without a victim? What about statements made by the victim to police? These are the issues that will be addressed in the upcoming Hammon case.

The Crawford decision has had a terribly detrimental effect on the prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child sexual abuse cases. In some cases, prosecutors are not bringing cases to court if the victim won’t testify, even if there is strong evidence that a crime was committed. In other instances, prosecutors are threatening victims with contempt of court, or even putting victims in jail to coerce their testimony.

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures the defendant’s right to confront their accuser, and no one is looking to see this right denied. However, in a murder case, the victim is clearly not available to testify, yet the case proceeds based on evidence. We hope in Hammon the Court finds the right balance between victims’ need for safety and the rights of the accused.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or the parent of a child who was sexually abused AND you chose not to testify in court OR if you are the advocate or prosecutor who worked with such a victim, Stop Family Violence would like to include your story. SFV also would like to include your story if you did testify against your assailant in criminal court and you or family members experienced further harm as a result. Last, if you are a prosecutor or legal advocate, SFV would like to hear from you about the impact of the Crawford decision on prosecution in your community.

Click on the title of this post to be directed to SFV's website to tell your story.

Post compliments of 1/20/06 Email update from Stop Family Violence.

Popular posts from this blog

Texas State Affairs Committee hears testimony on two adoption bills

On March 27, 2017, Ms. Cochran-Green testified before the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee on two adoption-related bills, SB 329 and
SB 1362.  You can watch the live testimony here. Ms. Cochran-Green's testimony is the Part 1 of the State Affairs Meeting on March 27.  Her testimony is in the second hour and she testified separately on each bill.

SB1362 is authored by Sen. Campbell in which she proposes to changes to the voluntary adoption registry.  Ms. Cochran-Green testified her opposition to the bill because much of the proposed bill is already codified in the Texas Family Code and is common practice among adoption agencies.

SB329 is authored by Senator Creighton in which he proposes to allow adult adopted persons to obtain their original birth certificates at the age of 18.  Ms. Cochran-Green supports this bill as it allows adopted persons in closed adoptions primarily from the 1930s-1990s to seek reunions with their birth parents and obtain medical history that is neede…

Mother's Day: A Time for Reflection and Celebration

This is the time of year that we celebrate motherhood, not only the day-to-day life of being a mom, but also the journey itself.  For some, infertility challenges that journey.  Thankfully there are more options than ever for those who want to become a mother. For many, like myself, the solution was adoption.  I am so thankful for the miracle of adoption, but is it right for you?  The following questions may help you find your answer.
Are you emotionally prepared for adoption? As with making any family planning decision, adoption requires a lot of self-reflection. It also requires that you come to terms with any grief you are experiencing resulting from infertility issues. A friend who adopted told me that she decided to adopt because the chances of becoming a parent were much higher than IVF. That’s true, but there are other challenges to consider. Open adoption is now the norm and it is recommended by experts in the field. Consequently, birth parents will become a part of your famil…

Free Workshop for Divorcees and Widows held in Dripping Springs on Friday, October 14

Jennifer Cochran-Green is hosting a workshop for divorcing and grieving women to approach legal and financial decisions in confidence.  The workshop will  be held  on Friday, October 14, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Dripping Springs Community Library at 501 Sportsplex Drive in Dripping Springs. The format is a lunch and learn where light refreshments will be provided and attendees may bring their own lunch if they choose. Jennifer will deliver a presentation focused on issues impacting children immediately after a death of a parent or during divorce.  Leanne Layne, an estate planning attorney with Kernodle Layne Group and Amy Colton, Wealth Advisor with Forefront Wealth Solutions will deliver presentations on making decisions about estate planning and financial issues. 
"I'm so excited to bring this seminar to the Dripping Springs community at no cost to attendees.  Throughout my career, I have found that many women are often caught off guard by their finances when in…