Section 15-25-3

Prosecution for physical or sexual offense or exploitation involving child under age 16 - Use of closed circuit equipment; competence of victim as witness.

(a) In those criminal prosecutions set out in Section 15-25-1, the court, on motion of the state or the defendant prior to the trial of the case, may order that the testimony of any alleged victim of the crime or witness thereto who is under the age of 16 at the time of the order shall be viewed and heard at trial by the court and the finder of fact by closed circuit equipment. In ruling on the motion the court shall take into consideration those matters set out in Section 15-25-2.

(b) If the court orders that the victim's or witness's testimony in court shall be by closed circuit equipment, the testimony shall be taken outside the courtroom in the judge's chambers or in another suitable location designated by the judge.

(c) Examination and cross-examination of the alleged child victim or witness shall proceed as though he or she were testifying in the courtroom. Present in the room with the child during his or her testimony shall be the prosecuting attorney, the attorney of the defendant, and a person whose presence, in the judgment of the court, contributes to the well-being of the child and who has dealt with the child in a therapeutic setting regarding the abuse. Additional persons, such as the parent or parents or legal guardian, except the defendant, may be admitted into the room in the discretion of the court.

(d) All costs incurred by the district attorney to make it possible for the court and the trier of the fact to view the testimony of the victim by closed circuit equipment as provided in this article shall be paid by the state. The district attorney shall submit all bills for costs to the state Comptroller for approval and payment from the fund entitled Court Costs Not Otherwise Provided For.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law or rule of evidence, a child victim of a physical offense, sexual offense, or sexual exploitation, shall be considered a competent witness and shall be allowed to testify without prior qualification in any judicial proceeding. The trier of fact shall be permitted to determine the weight and credibility to be given to the testimony. The court may also allow leading questions of the child witnesses in the interest of justice.

(f) The operators of the closed circuit equipment may also be in the room and shall make every effort to be unobtrusive.

(g) Only the court, the prosecuting attorney, and the attorney for the defendant may question the child. During the child's testimony by closed circuit equipment, the defendant, the judge, and the jury shall remain in the courtroom. The video feed showing the child shall remain visible to the defendant, the judge, and the jury at all times during the testimony and cross-examination of the child victim or witness.

(h) The judge and the defendant shall be allowed to communicate with the attorneys in the room where the child is testifying by any appropriate electronic method. The party making the motion that the testimony shall be by closed circuit equipment shall make all necessary arrangements regarding the equipment and the operation thereof during the course of the proceeding.

(i) This section may not be interpreted to preclude, for purposes of identification of a defendant, the presence of both the victim and the defendant in the courtroom at the same time. The testimony shall be limited to purposes of identification only.

(j) The provisions of this section shall not apply if the defendant is not represented by an attorney.

(Acts 1985, No. 85-743, p. 1143, §3; Acts 1994, No. 94-704, p. 1359, §1; Act 2007-391, §1.)