Under a proposal approved by the State Senate, victims and family members would be able to give their impact statement in person, without fear of further trauma. Senate Bill 1503, by Senator Glenn Coffee, would prevent the cross-examination of victims or their family members after presenting an oral impact statement during the sentencing phase of a trial.
"Right now, if you choose to submit a written impact statement, that isn't subject to cross-examination," explained Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. "However, if you decide to give that exact same information in person, you could be questioned by the defense attorney. It's a double standard that may force some victims or family members to decide they'd rather not go through that ordeal."
Coffee says that other states, such as Arizona, have similar laws to ensure both kinds of impact statements can be given without cross-examination. He says it won't affect the outcome of a trial.
"These statements are presented after the conviction. It does not impact evidentiary issues related to the trial itself. What it will do is give some protection to the dignity of victims and family members who decide they want to give their statement in person without being subjected to a cross-examination."
SB 1503 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration