Bill aiming to protect young sexual assault victims in court crafted by area lawmaker, local prosecutor

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Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 12:17 AM CST
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BLOOMINGTON (Heart of Illinois ABC) - A Central Illinois lawmaker and McLean County’s chief prosecutor hope to protect all minor victims of sexual assault when they appear in court.

Current state law allows a judge to clear the courtroom of all non-interested parties, besides news reporters, when a child sex crime victim testifies.

State Senator Sally Turner’s bill would give the same protection to victims who were minors at the time of an assault, but have since turned 18.

McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp helped draft the proposal after he tried a case in which former inmates came to watch a defendant in the courtroom.

“It was a public trial. They were out of jail. It was their right, but our victim was scared to death to have to go in there and testify in front of anybody, let alone people who were jailed up with her assailant,” said Knapp.

The Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Association says the legislation can help address a traumatic situation by giving victims dignity and respect when they testify in court.

Turner and Knapp’s proposal won the unanimous backing of a Senate committee. The full Senate will now consider the measure.

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