New law brings new testimony options

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Changes begin July 1st in the way court testimonies are heard in Georgia as pre-recorded testimony is now allowed in court.

Family members of crime victims now have a better way to testify. Under the new Georgia Senate Bill 151, pre-recorded testimony is now allowed in the courtroom.

For years Twin Cedars Youth Development has used video testimony for cases involving juveniles. The center's Program Coordinator, Kim Adams told News Leader Nine, "It avoids or minimizes the stress to the child victim and their families."

With the new law going in to effect, the same steps will be taken for witnesses of all ages.

"Many of our victims' families, especially in death penalty cases, are unable to hold their emotions together enough to testify in court especially in the presence of the defendant and many of the court personnel. This gives them the opportunity to videotape a statement or give a written statement to be taken into consideration," said Muscogee County's District Attorney Julia Slater.

Adams added, "When you record someone's testimony in a setting outside the courtroom, that is non-threatening and non-intimidating, I think you're more likely to get full disclosure."

Even though this was a huge step for Georgia, Slater says there are still more changes to take place, "I would love for as many people impacted by crime to present testimony about how it impacts their lives. But I'm very pleased we were able to make this step this year. It's been a long road."

Governor Sonny Perdue singed this bill during National Crime Victims' Rights Week in April, but Wednesday marks the first day it will go into action.

Victim's are not required to give a video or audio testimony, but this new law opens up that option.