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Kirkland legislator proposes new law that would protect rape victims

Rape victims wouldn't be victimized again in court by their attackers under legislation introduced by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland).

"Rapists have discovered they can take over the courtroom and torture their victims for hours - or days - if they act as their own attorney," Goodman said. "It's a perversion of the justice system and this new law would put an end to it."

This year in King County, a 21-year-old rape victim ran to the roof of the courthouse and threatened to jump, telling prosecutors she'd rather kill herself than be cross-examined by her accused rapist.

"The rapists acting as their own attorney aren't trying to be found innocent by the jury," Goodman said. "They're taking one last chance to be in control of their victims again. It's sadistic and wrong."

A similar idea was introduced last session by Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), who did not seek re-election. That bill passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate after fears that it unconstitutionally told the courts how to operate.

Williams worked with Goodman to give the legislation another chance.

"I've heard heart-wrenching stories of sexual abuse survivors being revictimized in a courtroom by their abusers," Williams said. "Our justice system cannot endorse courtroom theater that leaves witnesses incapacitated with fear and unable to testify."

Goodman met with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen to craft a new proposal that would be constitutional, and Goodman says the courts agree with the need for reform and want to make this work.

House Bill 1001 direct the courts to develop rules so that judges could order a stand-in attorney to question rape victims or have accused rapists question victims by closed-circuit television.

The bill is the second piece of legislation introduced for the 2010 session. It will now be referred to a House committee before moving toward a vote by the full House.

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