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TN works on “Safe Space” for Crime Victims

There is talk about THE RULE or invoking the rule. The rule in question is the Rule of Sequestration. Basically, witnesses set to testify cannot be in court when other witnesses testify. The rule is to prevent witnesses changing their stories to address what another witness may testify to while on the stand. All witnesses testify in a vacuum, if you will, free from influence from other witnesses.

But if you are one of those witnesses to be sequestered, where do you go? If you are the victim of a heinous crime, you may not want to share a hallway with those who are set to testify for the defendant. The courthouse may be small with no where else for you to go. Perhaps its big and you don’t want to get lost while waiting for your turn to testify. As if you are not already nervous enough, being asked to step outside can just add another level of anxiety.

Tennessee is hoping to make things more comfortable with its bill called “The Safe for Victims” bill. The District Attorney of Washington County, TN says county governments will have access to $5,000 to create “safe and accessible space for victims to meet with attorneys, law enforcement, counselors, and others.”

Personally, I know that the District Attorney’s office in Gwinnett County, Georgia have a lovely space for victims of Domestic Violence to wait during court. It is hidden away from the rest of the courthouse so there is privacy, and many couches and tvs, even a kitchen make it very cozy. There are plenty of books and toys for children. But I have been to many courthouses where that is not the case. Too many courthouses expect victims to meander the halls with feelings of anxiety, being unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Some make witnesses wait in a law library, which does little to calm feelings of being overwhelmed in a court setting.

Side note: This is why I often try to meet clients somewhere more friendly, like a cafe or restaurant. Offices and courthouses can make people feel intimidated which does not help build a relationship of trust and open communication.

So to that end I say, Good Luck Tennessee! I hope you are successful and that others follow your lead!

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