INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A Hamilton County prosecutor is calling for the Indiana House to pass a bill that would protect child sexual assault victims from having to relive their trauma in court.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Lee Buckingham appeared before the Indiana House Judiciary Committee Monday to testify in favor of Senate Bill 206. This bill would eliminate discovery depositions for child victims of sexual assault.
Currently, Indiana is one of five states that have unrestrained access to depositions. The bill’s authors, Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, and Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, are attempting to change that. They say they want to alleviate trauma for the state’s most vulnerable.
Buckingham says it is incredibly difficult for victims of childhood sexual assault to re-tell the experience during depositions, sometimes with the defendant in the room with them.
“What these child victims have to go through, it’s very difficult,” Buckingham told the committee. “Eliminating the deposition, in my estimation, would be a huge step forward and help alleviate some of the trauma they experience.”
Buckingham says defendants would still have access to the victim’s forensic interview, which are conducted by a trained professional and video recorded, and the right to confrontation in a trial, as provided in both the U.S. and Indiana constitutions.
Critics of the bill claim that, while well-intended, the bill would result in negative outcomes for the victims it is intended to protect. Kenton Kericove, a judge from the Wells County Circuit Court, calls for the bill to provide judges the discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis what cases to allow depositions.
Kericove explained, in his experience, allowing depositions can be beneficial to solving cases. He points out that by prohibiting depositions, the child victim might have to testify in a much more intimidating setting, such as the courtroom.
The bill passed the Indiana Senate 49-1. The bill was not voted on during the committee hearing. It is expected to be heard again in the future.