Utah high court rules crime victims don’t have to testify in preliminary hearings

Undated photo of Utah Supreme Court building . | Photo by John R. Perry, Pixabay, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that crime victims do not necessarily have to testify in-person at a preliminary hearing, granting protections for them.

Fox13Now.com reports in a ruling issued this week, the state’s highest court ruled that subpoenas for a victim’s testimony can be rejected if there are other means of getting the information. The cases the Court considered involved alleged child sex abuse victims.

Justices of the Utah Supreme Court in an undated photo. (L-R) John A. Pearce, Associate Chief Justice Thomas R. Lee, Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant, Constandinos Himonas and Paige Petersen. | Photo courtesy Utah Supreme Court, St. George News

“These cases arise at the difficult intersection between the rights of defendants and the rights of alleged victims in preliminary hearings. We hold that any power a defendant has to compel a victim witness to testify at a preliminary hearing is limited by the court’s authority to quash unreasonable subpoenas,” Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee wrote in a unanimous opinion. “And we conclude that that reasonableness inquiry must be informed by the standards that govern preliminary hearings and the rights that our law guarantees for crime victims.”

The ruling focuses on two separate cases. In both, the men are accused of sexually abusing children. In their respective cases, the defendants sought to subpoena children to testify at the preliminary hearing – a critical stage where a judge decides if there is enough evidence to make someone stand trial for the crime they’re accused of.

The Court essentially declared that because the burden in a preliminary hearing is on the prosecution to make its case, “a subpoena compelling the victim to give additional, live testimony will survive a motion to quash only if the defendant demonstrates that the subpoena is necessary to the presentation of specific evidence that is reasonably likely to defeat the showing of probable cause.”

The Court also pointed to the ability to show evidence may be found elsewhere (like a police interview) and Utah has laws that protect victims of crime in testimony.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said the ruling was a big victory for crime victims.

Read the full story here:  Fox13Now.com.

Written by BEN WINSLOW, Fox13Now.com.

Copyright 2019, KSTU. A Tribune broadcasting station

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