District attorney proposes law changes to protect child sex abuse victims
October 10, 2019 06:12 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Standing with a coalition of community partners and victims of sexual assault, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez laid out his case.
“We have a real problem inside the criminal justice system. We are not living up to our best selves. We need to do better and do more for victims of crime,” Torrez said.
Specifically, DA Torrez wants three changes to New Mexico law: First, children who are victims should not be forced into interrogations by defense attorneys. Second, adults with disabilities should not be forced into interrogations by defense attorneys. Third, any adult should have the right to refuse interviews before trial.
Torrez played audio and showed reporters transcripts of times he believes defense attorneys asked inappropriate questions.
“These types of questions are not reflective of the values of this community,” Torrez said. “This type of process is harmful and traumatic.”
Ashley Vargas, 19, became a victim of sexual abuse when she was 11-years-old. Vargas said she felt revictimized by New Mexico’s criminal justice system during her interrogation.
“I remember a specific question, they were asking me what I wore,” Vargas said. “And I told them I was wearing tights and a T-shirt and they asked me why I was wearing tights to bed. They were asking an 11-year-old why— they made it seem like it was my fault. They were inflicting so many painful questions over and over.”
Defense attorneys strongly disagree with Torrez’s proposed changes.
“Restricting this kind of information gets us farther away from the truth,” said Jonathon Ibarra with the Public Defender’s Office. “What we should all want is to get the truth.”
Ibarra argued that asking questions before trial is essential to understanding the complete picture.
“The system that we have now is the best designed system to get to the truth and what everyone should want the most is the truth,” he said.
About 40 states have some sort of prohibition against questioning victims of sex crimes, especially children. New Mexico is not one of those states.
Created: October 10, 2019 06:12 PM
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