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Davis Journal

Controversial bill put on hold

Feb 09, 2023 01:02PM ● By Becky Ginos

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross on the Senate floor on the first day of the session. Weiler’s bill SB87 has met with some opposition. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

SALT LAKE CITY—There has been some opposition to a bill Sen. Todd Weiler is running regarding defendants’ rights. SB87 Criminal Prosecution Amendments “provides a defendant with a right to depose a witness in a criminal prosecution if the defendant is charged by information with a class A misdemeanor or a felony.”

“I ran SB231 last year and the last Friday before the session ended my phone blew up with prosecutors telling me how much they didn’t like it,” Weiler said in a committee hearing. “Organizations and working groups met all summer into the fall and we had a good discussion. We put into SB87 a more thoughtful approach and made a gutted and weakened version of the bill. I’ve had more opposition than last year.”

If someone commits a crime and he claims he is innocent, he has no right until trial 99 percent of the time to interview or find out what the witness is going to say until trial, said Weiler. “Why? Because in most cases the prosecutors, paralegals or witness advocate will write out a statement, it’s called an 1102. The witness will be asked to sign it. It’s not their own words and that’s all the defense gets until trial. Now 95 percent of the time these cases are plea bargained and you don’t go to trial. So if you want to be confronted by your witness which the Sixth Amendment says every criminal defendant has the right to do you have to go to trial. If it doesn’t go to trial he has the risk of being sent to jail for five to 10 years.”

In 1994 the law was changed, elevating the witness’ rights, he said. “Which one has the constitutional rights – only one? We need reform. It’s a broken system and it is unfair that innocent people might sit in a jail for weeks, months or even years, losing jobs, losing housing. If we kill the bill we don’t solve the problem.”

There has been concern over aggressive attorneys taking depositions asking intimate details that intimidate the witness. “It says in the bill that it is to be respectful and fair to the witness,” Weiler said. “We’ve all heard that the witness will be abused but the bill does the exact opposite. Witnesses deserve to be treated with respect, courtesy and kindness and all of those things but their rights don’t outweigh those of the accused.”

Weiler circled SB87 and the companion resolution SJR6 Joint Resolution Amending Rules of Procedure and Evidence Regarding Criminal Prosecutions which put both on hold.