December 13, 2011
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today praised the Michigan Supreme Court for protecting child crime victims testifying in court by allowing use of a one-way screen that shields children from re-victimization caused by the trauma of witnessing an accused rapist in court.
"There is no constitutional right to stare down a child victim," said Schuette. "This is a commonsense step that protects the well-being of child victims while preserving the integrity of the criminal justice process."
The decision regarding People v. Rose upheld lower court rulings which approved of Allegan County Prosecutor Frederick Anderson's request to allow an eight-year-old child rape victim to testify with a one-way screen between the witness stand and the table where the defendant was seated. The screen allowed everyone in the courtroom—including the defendant, defense counsel, the judge and the jury—to see the child victim, but shielded the victim from seeing the defendant. After reviewing briefs and hearing oral arguments by Schuette's office and other parties, the Court allowed the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Rose to stand.
The use of the screen was challenged by the defendant, Ronald Carl Rose, 27, who was ultimately convicted by an Allegan County jury on four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and two counts of disseminating sexually explicit matter to a minor. The conviction was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals on August 26, 2010, which rejected Rose's claims that the screen violated his right to confront the victim and the presumption of innocence. Rose then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, where Schuette weighed in on the case.
Since taking office, Schuette has prioritized efforts to defend Crime Victims' Rights in Michigan. In May 2011, Schuette appointed the first-ever Attorney General's Crime Victims' Advocate, who is working to uphold Schuette's commitment to protect the rights of crime victims in both policy and practice across the state.
In addition to intervening to advocate for child victims in People v. Rose, actions taken in 2011 to fulfill Schuette's pledge to serve as a voice for crime victims include:
Policy Review: Schuette's office is undertaking a thorough policy review to evaluate the environment for crime victims across the state. This review has included state law, certain administrative rules, court rules and policies, and includes a search for pertinent state and local agency best practices. In 2012, Schuette will work with law enforcement, prosecutors and advocates to develop and roll out proposals that refine, clarify and fill the gaps where crime victim's rights need to be strengthened and improved.
Direct Outreach to Prosecutor Victim Advocates: To assist them in fulfilling duties under the Michigan Crime Victim's Rights Act, every county prosecutor has staff assigned to work with crime victims to ensure their rights are honored as their cases proceed through the criminal justice process. Schuette's office has undertaken a statewide outreach effort to connect with more than 200 advocates in the offices of Michigan's 83 prosecutors. Maintaining this direct dialogue on a statewide basis is driving new discussions regarding best practices, common areas of concern, and listening to recommended updates for law, policy, and initiatives. Schuette's representatives have also assisted in conducting training for victim advocates.
Ensuring Victims Are Not Forgotten: Schuette's office has met with advocates and organizations dedicated to assisting crime victims, including Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), Crime Stoppers, and the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. These meetings establish direct connections between victims and the Attorney General's Office, many of which are being created for the first time.
"Too often, the victims of crime are forgotten, but we are working to change that," said Schuette. "Victims deserve an aggressive champion to ensure their needs are met and public safety is preserved."