Courts Will Not Drop 'Alleged' When Referring To Alleged Victims During Trial

By Claire Caulfield, Associated Press
Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 - 10:10am
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2018 - 10:33am

The Arizona Court of Appeals found that those who say they are victims of crime will continue to be called “alleged victims” during trial.

The ruling Thursday interprets the Arizona Constitution's victims' bill of rights in a child molestation and sexual abuse case in which the victim argued she was entitled to be called simply the "victim."

She argued that calling her the "alleged victim" called into question whether a crime was committed and whether she was a victim.

The Court of Appeals' majority said the constitutional provisions don't specify how to refer to a victim in court and that judges have leeway to decide how to refer to victims, depending on circumstances of the case.

"The term 'alleged victim' simply reflects the procedural posture of a case such as this in which the defendant disputes that any crime occurred,'' wrote Judge Kent Cattani.

"Although 'alleged victim' connotes some degree of uncertainty as to whether a crime occurred, until a defendant has been convicted of a charged offense, the case involves an alleged criminal act against an alleged victim,'' Cattani continued. "Characterizing the proceedings in this matter thus accurately conveys the procedural posture of the case and does not inherently violate a victim's right to be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity.''

Joey Hamby was the defendant’s lawyer in the initial lawsuit and says removing “alleged” it would be unfair to those accused of crimes.

"We are very gratified that the Arizona Court of Appeals has upheld the right of every defendant to be presumed innocent during trial," he said.

In a dissent, Judge James Beene said he reads the constitutional and statutory rights of the child at issue in this case of child molestation and sexual abuse to be broader than his colleagues.

"Because a person against whom a crime has allegedly been committed is afforded several substantive pre-trial rights pursuant to Arizona law, logic dictates this individual is a 'victim' and should be referred to as such,'' he wrote. And Beene said that does not impair the right of a defendant to get a fair trial.

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