LOS ANGELES – Congress may soon consider a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution (search ) to recognize certain rights of victims in the criminal justice system, among them, the right to attend all public proceedings relating to a crime.
Prosecutors are pushing for the new amendment, but defense attorneys say such a law would prejudice the jury and could allow victims and their families, many of whom are also witnesses, to tailor their testimony based on information they heard in the courtroom.
The debate started following the trial of the accused murderer of Harriet Salarno's (search) daughter. The Salarnos were barred from the courtroom and were forced to sit outside for six weeks while deliberations occurred.
Because the U.S. Constitution trumps state laws, Salarno, now a victims' rights advocate, began pushing for Congress to pass a 28th Amendment (search), which would guarantee victims and their families the right to be present for every minute of the court proceedings.
The 28th amendment would make sure victims are notified before any court proceeding and allow them to speak at bail hearings, sentencing and parole hearings.
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