Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 3, 2013 Virginia State Crime Commission Meeting, Prior Sex Offenses Admissible in Evidence HB1766 / SB1114 and Writs of Actual Innocence HB1919 Discussed

Today was the first of three Virginia State Crime Commission Meetings for 2013. 

I previously posted the agenda for today’s meeting for everyone to be aware of the topics. 

The VSCC Power Point Presentations from today’s meeting are now available to view for Prior Sex Offenses Admissible in Evidence and Writs of Actual Innocence the two topics that I was planning to address during the public comment portions. 

They do not video the meetings and the audio that I have is too big of a file to load so I am sharing the two statements that I gave to the Commission Members today with all of you here. 

Statement #1 in reference to:
Provides that in a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of an offense of child sexual abuse, evidence of the defendant's conviction of another offense or offenses of child sexual abuse is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant.
Both Bill versions were amended during 2013 G.A. session from ALL sex offenses to only crimes against minors.

Commission Members, 

New laws are supposed to strengthen our Democracy, not weaken it. But this proposal does just that. 

Our Justice System prohibits a complaining witness’ character or sexual history to be discussed or debated. Even if the plaintiff has previously accused someone of sexual misconduct, we claim it’s irrelevant and prejudicial, but yet here we are trying to flip the coin on the defendant by injecting bias into the courtroom. 

For years the Virginia Legislature has been making the standards of guilt easier. 

If this proposal becomes law….would the defendant be permitted to testify in opposition to the prior conviction or would this be considered “irrelevant” by the State? It seems to me that any mitigating circumstance in the prior conviction must be allowed as it’s being held up as evidence in the new case. And if this occurs the Commonwealth must allow the defendant the right to face the original accuser even if they took a plea deal. The Constitutional issues with this proposal are countless. 

Why is this change even needed? 

It’s NOT because the recidivism rates for Registered Sex Offenders is high.  

In fact the re-offense rate for convicted “sex offenders” is the second lowest of ALL crimes.
(I have copies of the national recidivism rate in descending order if anyone is interested) 

I questioned how many current sexual statutes ALREADY include a “second or subsequent offense”. I found 16 different acts where the Commonwealth is already charging and sentencing defendants with past convictions much more harshly than a first time offender.  (I have copies of these crimes if anyone is interested) 

What is the real goal here?