An increasing number of courts are prohibiting witnesses and victims from uttering certain words in front of a jury, banning everything from the words “rape” to “victim” to “crime scene,” says the National Law Journal. Prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates say courts are going too far in trying to cleanse witness testimony, all to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Concerns and fears over language restrictions have been percolating since judges in Nebraska and Missouri last year banned the word “rape” during rape trials.
“Homicide,” “drunk,” “victim,” “murderer,” “killer” and “crime scene” are among banned terms. “I’ve gotten a flood of e-mails saying, ‘Wow, you should see the number of times that this is happening in our jurisdiction,’ ” said Joshua Marquis, vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, who objects to censoring witnesses. “It’s absurd. It’s dangerous. And it’s growing.” Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop County, Or., said courts telling witnesses and victims how to tell their story insults them, as well as the intelligence of jurors. Wichita defense attorney Daniel Monnat said words like “victim” and “crime scene” contradict the presumption of innocence by assuming a conclusion that a jury should arrive at on its own.