Legislation allowing a victim’s testimony to be ‘read in’ to the record at parole revocation hearings gets a public hearing at the Capitol. State Representative Peter Barca says crime victims are often called upon to testify, at proceedings to revoke a criminal’s probation, parole, or extended supervision. “The whole intent of the bill is to not victimize people again, to have to give the exact same testimony that they had already given in an earlier hearing, when the judge feels that there’s no point to that,” says Barca.
Barca’s bill would allow a felony victim’s testimony from a preliminary court hearing to be admissible at revocation hearings – without the victim being present. Sandra Bertelle, Victim Witness Coordinator for Kenosha County, says providing that testimony in person can be intimidating. “Victims have to go to the prison or the jail, where this person is being housed, and sit in a tiny room that’s about four feet by four feet, and sit at a tiny table where the offender is within two feet of the victim,” says Bertelle. “The victim can be a child,” she notes. “All the more reason to not subject that child to having to do this twice.”
“This is to allow the judge that discretion, where there’s cases where victims just clearly are not needed to repeat their testimony,” says Barca. “I think it’s a good solid bill to help victims to not have face painful circumstances again. As for due process concerns, Barca notes the bill was been introduced in a previous sessions, and he doesn’t believe that’s an issue.
Kenosha County’s Bertelle says she’s seen many victims who are too intimidated to testify at revocation proceedings. “In domestic violence cases, a lot of times these are repeat offenders, and a lot of times they’re on probation,” she says. “It’s a huge problem for victims, and a lot of times they just don’t show up at the revocation hearing, because they’re terrified.”