Pennsylvania Voters to Consider Changes in Child Court Testimony

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Voters in next month’s general election in Pennsylvania may change the way children testify in criminal court cases when they answer two ballot questions.

The first would amend Pennsylvania’s constitution — which states that criminal defendants must meet witnesses against them “face to face” — to mirror the U.S. Constitution and allow defendants to be “confronted with the witnesses against them.”

The second question clears the way for the state Legislature to enact laws permitting alternative means of testimony in criminal cases, such as through videotaped depositions or closed-circuit television.

Voters in 1995 passed a similar referendum that was ruled unconstitutional because the questions were combined, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. This time, the related questions are being posed separately. The questions:

1: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to provide that a person accused of a crime has the right to be “confronted with the witnesses against him” instead of the right to “meet the witness face to face”?

2: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to provide that the General Assembly may enact laws regarding the manner by which children may testify in criminal proceedings, including the use of videotaped depositions or testimony by closed-circuit television?


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