You are here

Expert witness testimony headed to governor's desk

 HARRISBURG– State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, D-Phila.,is proud that her legislation to allow for expert witness testimony in sexual assault trials is headed for the governor's desk. The House concurred unanimously in Senate amendments to H.B.1264 today.
House Bill 1264 would permit an expert to provide testimony on the counterintuitive behavior indicative of a rape victim, as well as any recognized form of post-traumatic stress disorder in sexual assault cases as well as other common psychological reactions to trauma.
"I have been working on this issue since 2006 and it has been a rewarding experience," Parker said. "In addition to my colleagues, advocates and people working in the criminal justice system have been most helpful and supportive, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Philadelphia Children's Alliance.
Just this week, Parker received support for her legislation from the Children's Alliance.
Chris Kirchner, executive director of the Children's Alliance, issued the following statement in support of H.B. 1264:
"The Philadelphia Children’s Alliance supports this legislation 100 percent. It would allow our specially trained forensic interviewers to testify as expert witnesses about the dynamics of child sexual abuse and about the behavior of child sexual abuse victims to help juries understand more about this complex issue. There are many nuances and subtleties to the behaviors and actions of sexual abuse victims that most people do not know about and should be educated on."
PCAR issued the following statement upon the bill's concurrence:
"We are thrilled to see H.B. 1264, providing for expert testimony in cases of sexual violence, pass both chambers of the legislature. We are proud to have worked with Representative Parker to ensure this victory for victims. There have been many unsung heroes in the legislature that have championed this bill. It has truly been a bipartisan effort as should be the case with law that helps prosecution do their job and ensures that future victims will come forward."
"We have seen how the defendant in the sexual assault case being heard in Centre County was permitted to provide an expert witness to explain the defendant's behavior but Pennsylvania case law prohibits the prosecution from presenting expert witnesses to put in context the behavior of the alleged victims," Parker said. "This ban on expert testimony is outdated. We need to move forward and provide victims with the help they need to bring their perpetrators to justice and move on with their lives.
"Research shows that victims of sex crimes behave in a number of ways but because of the myths regarding sex crimes, jurors perceive some of those behaviors, such as a failure to immediately report the crime, as compelling evidence of a victim's lack of credibility," Parker said. "To overcome these myths, expert testimony has been deemed necessary in order to provide a jury with the proper context to evaluate a victim's behavior."