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FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007

House OKs allowing children to testify out of court

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Children who have been sexually abused would not have to testify in front of the person accused of assaulting them, according to a bill that passed the Alabama House on Thursday.

The bill by Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, allows children under 16 years old to testify in sexual abuse cases on videotape outside the courtroom. The defense attorney and the prosecutor would question the child and the videotape would be shown to jurors and the defendant inside the courtroom.

The bill passed the House on a 100-0 vote and now goes to the Senate for debate. The legislation was one of the issues Attorney General Troy King listed as a priority for the session.

"There's nothing more traumatizing in the world than a child victim who has been sexually abused to have to testify in court against his or her abuser," Ward said. "The purpose is to protect children from having to face a person who committed a very horrible crime against them." King said 32 states have enacted similar legislation because of children's terror about testifying.

"You bring them into the courtroom and seat them across from the guy who probably told them, 'If you say anything, I'm going to kill you,' " King said.

The bill allows the accused in the room when the defendant is acting as his own attorney.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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