NC domestic violence testimony protections OK’d by Senate

Victims of alleged domestic violence in North Carolina could testify remotely in criminal proceedings to avoid in-person run-ins with the accused in legislation the state Senate approved unanimously on Tuesday.

The measure, which now goes to the House, is named in memory of Kayla Hammonds, who was fatally stabbed outside a grocery store four months ago in Lumberton. Her ex-boyfriend was charged in her slaying.

Hammonds’ family said recently that some previous criminal charges against the defendant had been dismissed because Hammonds was scared to appear or testify against him.

The bill creates a process by which a victim can testify outside a defendant’s presence if a judge determines the victim would otherwise suffer “serious emotional distress” by testifying in the presence of the defendant and have trouble communicating.

The defendant’s attorney would be in the same room with the victim during cross-examination.

The bill also would expand the statute of limitations for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from two to 10 years. And it would place into state law language that makes clear out-of-court statements can be entered into a trial as evidence when an opposing party caused the potential witness not to appear.

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