Legislature(1993 - 1994)

1994-03-09 House Journal

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1994-03-09                     House Journal                      Page 2683
HB 523                                                                       
HOUSE BILL NO. 523 by the House Rules Committee by request of                  
the Governor, entitled:                                                        
"An Act amending Alaska Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(r) relating              
to admissibility of hearsay evidence by peace officers before the              
grand jury."                                                                   
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs and Judiciary        

1994-03-09                     House Journal                      Page 2684
HB 523                                                                        
The following fiscal notes apply:                                             
Zero fiscal notes (2), Dept. of Administration, 3/9/94                         
Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Public Safety, 3/9/94                               
Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Law, 3/9/94                                         
The Governor's transmittal letter, dated March 9, 1994, appears below:         
"Dear Speaker Barnes:                                                          
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am     
transmitting a bill that amends Alaska Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(r)         
to allow one peace officer, such as an Alaska state trooper or police          
officer, to testify at grand jury as to what another peace officer heard,      
said, or did in the course of a criminal investigation.  This will reduce      
the number of peace officers that must be involved and required to             
testify when a case is presented to a grand jury, especially when the          
peace officers may have only played a minor role in the investigation.         
In federal courts in Alaska, the lead case agent on a particular             
investigation simply comes before the federal grand jury and testifies         
about the entire scope of what was learned during the course of an           
investigation.  If 12 law enforcement agents were involved, the federal        
court rules do not require all 12 agents to personally appear and testify      
before the grand jury.  The federal rules allow for just one case agent        
to appear and testify before the grand jury -- leaving the other 11            
agents available on the street to fight crime.                                 
This is not the situation in Alaska's state courts.  Because hearsay         
evidence is generally not allowed to be presented before the grand jury        
in criminal cases, the lead peace officer investigating the case cannot        
simply testify about what that officer learned from fellow officers            
conducting the investigation.  The lead officer cannot even testify            
before the grand jury about what that officer heard over police radio -        
- the police dispatcher who made the particular radio transmission must        
be called into court to testify about the statement in person.  It             
frequently takes many work hours to prepare, and to be present, to             

1994-03-09                     House Journal                      Page 2685
HB 523                                                                       
As the federal courts in Alaska routinely prove, Alaska's hearsay rule       
does not provide any greater protection of the constitutional rights of        
Alaskans than does the federal practice.  The present state court rule         
unnecessarily pulls dozens of peace officers off patrol every month            
simply to wait around to testify.                                              
The language in Alaska Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(r), which                  
presently prohibits virtually all hearsay testimony in the grand jury,         
should be amended to permit peace officers to testify as to what their       
fellow officers saw or heard -- for example, as to the contents of their     
fellow officers' official police reports.  The state is presently facing a   
projected decline in revenue.  This simple, constitutional, rule change        
can reduce grand jury costs to the state by allowing one officer, rather       
than many, to present the relevant evidence, at the same time freeing          
up nontestifying officers to do essential public protection duties.  If        
this bill is enacted, we could save money and keep Alaska's police and         
troopers out on the street fighting crime, without affecting the quality       
of evidence presented to the grand jury.                                       
I urge your favorable action on this bill.                                     
				Walter J. Hickel