Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/14/1994 09:07 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
ED MCNALLY, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL) thanks the chairman and members of the committee for their attention to the governor's crime package legislation. Mr. McNally states the five bills before the committee (SB 349, SB 350, SB 351, SB 352, and SB 353) will help to protect Alaska's women and children, and will also help prevent some crime from occurring in the first place. All of the bills are inexpensive; several will actually save money and, at the same time, put more law enforcement personnel on the street without any budget increases. MR. MCNALLY states the governor's crime package has been endorsed by nearly every major victim's rights group, women's advocacy group, and law enforcement group in Alaska. The committee's desire to hear the bills as a package speaks well of the consensus and the recognition that more must be done in responding to violence against Alaska's women and children. MR. MCNALLY says some of the elements in the governor's crime package have to do with budgetary concerns, while some provisions address other concerns, such as "three strikes, you're out", juvenile waivers, and conspiracy. These bills are designed to combat the crimes that most threaten Alaska's women and children: domestic violence, stalking, rape, and child abuse. MR. MCNALLY states that, at the core of this initiative, are six new laws to level the playing field. The governor filed six bills in the house, but only five in the senate, because Senator Donley has already filed a bill, SB 24, which would extend probation. Four bills are designed particularly for protecting women and children, those are SB 350, SB 351, SB 352, and SB 24. The other two bills in this package, SB 349 and SB 353 would serve to provide new protections for all victims of crime. These last two bills would put more law enforcement personnel on the street and would give prosecutors and defendants an equal number of jury challenges, as recommended in the American Bar Association's National Standards. Number 103 MR. MCNALLY stresses that these bills have very few moving parts. There is not an extraordinary amount of language in these bills which would open them up for amendment, the way the complex legislation that has been previously worked on involves. Mr. Mcnally would contrast the governor's crime legislation package with President Clinton's crime legislation package, which is the size of a telephone book. The legislation before the committee is an Alaska package; it was designed by Alaska's police, Alaska's prosecutors, and Alaska's women's advocacy groups, to meet an Alaskan problem. MR. MCNALLY says that brings him to the second point he would like to make today: the problem of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse is enormous. Alaska does not have the number one murder problem in the United States. We do not have the number one drug abuse problem. On a per capita basis, Alaska has one of the highest rates of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse of children in the nation. Not only are these cases among the most difficult and sensitive to prosecute, they are also among the most devastating in terms of the outrage, the grief, and the emotional trauma inflicted on victims, their families, and the entire community. The offenders in these cases are clearly among those most deserving of aggressive prosecution. They are cowards. They prey on our most vulnerable citizens: children, the elderly, and women. The problem of domestic and sexual violence in Alaska cuts across all boundaries of race, culture, status, educational background, and other demographic factors. It is acute in both urban and rural areas. Mr. McNally shows the committee several statistic charts. The charts show the rising number of reported cases in the early 1990's. Number 156 SENATOR TAYLOR asks Mr. McNally how many cases, of those that were reported, were found to have no substance. The senator had heard that DFYS (Division of Family & Youth Services) reported 67% had no substance and asks Mr. McNally if that percentage is accurate. Number 165 MR. MCNALLY responds he is not familiar with that number and is not in a position to address it. However, he is familiar with the cases that are actually brought to prosecution by law enforcement agencies that state they have reason to believe they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the abuse actually occurred. Number 170 SENATOR TAYLOR would like to see the number of actual prosecutions. The senator says there is probably a corresponding rise in those numbers too, but he has suspicions about DFYS's numbers. MR. MCNALLY says he appreciates Senator Taylor's concern, and he is not familiar with the 67% figure from DFYS, but Mr. McNally states he is not familiar with any law enforcement professional, court system professional, or advocacy professional who is not under the impression that Alaska's problem is significantly greater than that of other similarly sized populations in the country. SENATOR TAYLOR says he agrees with that, and believes it is due to the high alcohol abuse rate. MR. MCNALLY shows a chart indicating the number of rapes reported to the Anchorage Police Department. Certainly, 150 or so reported rapes a year is highly unacceptable to any community. In 1991 and 1992, Anchorage saw about 200 to 250 reported rapes a year, but in 1993 that figure jumped to over 400 reported rapes. Mr. McNally states, to give the committee an idea of how the prosecution in the state has voted with its' feet, that the number of assistant district attorneys in Anchorage has dropped from 26 to 22 in the past few years. Despite the loss in personnel, the number of personnel assigned full-time to rape, domestic violence, and child abuse cases has gone from zero to four in that same time period. Obviously, that means less prosecutorial resources are going into prosecuting any number of other categories of crime, primarily business crime, shoplifting, bad checks, burglaries, and other crimes against property. That gives you an indication of how seriously these problems are viewed by those of us who are obliged to respond to them. Number 208 MR. MCNALLY states another indication of the enormity of the problem can be gleaned from an editorial which appeared in the Anchorage Daily News (Mr. McNally passes a copy of the editorial out to each committee member). Mr. McNally says one of the most acute problems is the first item underlined in the editorial: that 84% of victims do not file a police report. That is a national figure, and is another part of the problem before the state. Part of the purpose of this legislation is to encourage women to come forward and report these crimes by making the court room a safe place for them; a place where they will be respected, and where their dignity will be respected. Everyone is talking about violent crime, but in Alaska, we are talking about crime against women and children. People of our communities are angry and disgusted by these crimes and by the archaic and unacceptable attitudes, sometimes in the system itself. MR. MCNALLY says that concludes his general testimony on the governor's crime package, and he would now be happy to discuss individual pieces of legislation. MR. MCNALLY says SB 353 (PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE OF JURORS) would address the disparity between the number of jury challenges allowed the defendant and the number allowed the prosecution. At this time in Alaska, the defendant is allowed ten jury challenges, while the prosecution is allowed six. The American Bar Association recommends an even number of challenges. The administration is suggesting eight for each side; that makes the total number of challenges equal to the total number currently allowed. There would be a zero fiscal note in that case. If the legislature cares to reduce the number of challenges to six for each side, that would be fine also. MR. MCNALLY states there are no constitutional issues involved with SB 353 either. It is very routine for judges to grant additional preemptory challenges to defendants for any legitimate reason. He asks the committee to keep in mind that... TAPE 94-16, SIDE B Number 595 ...all twelve of the jurors picked must rule for conviction in order to find a defendant guilty, while the defense need only pick one juror who does not convict, because it only takes one juror to end a trial with a hung jury. MR. MCNALLY thanks the committee for its' time and consideration, and says this type of nuts and bolts legislation can really make a difference in an extraordinary number of cases. This legislation is cheap, some of it will even save money, and the bills have been endorsed by a wide range of organizations. Number 585 SENATOR LEMAN states SB 353 actually specifies six preemptory jury challenges for each side. MR. MCNALLY says that in that case, SB 353 will actually save money. SENATOR LEMAN states that preemptory jury challenges are actually challenges given where no cause for challenge is required. MR. MCNALLY states the chairman is absolutely correct, which is the other fundamental protection for defendants and the prosecution: there is a limitless number of challenges for cause. Number 570 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if anyone has any questions and if anyone in the audience wishes to testify. CHAIRMAN LEMAN brings up SB 353 (PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE OF JURORS) for consideration. The chairman asks how frequent the ten preemptory challenges are used by the defense in selection of a jury. MR. MCNALLY states he can only answer anecdotally. There are a significant, number of cases in which all ten are used, though he has no idea what the actual percentage is. It is not unusual to use them all, nor is it unusual not to use all ten challenges. SENATOR TAYLOR comments in serious cases it is very common to use all ten challenges. Senator Taylor states he has no objection to allowing both the defense and the prosecution to each have eight preemptory challenges, rather than six apiece. He thinks there will be less objection to the bill if each side has eight preemptory challenges. MR. MCNALLY states each side either having six or eight challenges does not matter: the goal of the administration was simply to level the playing field by giving the defense and the prosecution an equal number of preemptory challenges in jury selection. Number 440 CHAIRMAN LEMAN states he likes the negative fiscal note which would accompany giving each side six preemptory challenges. The court would still be able to give additional jury challenges for cause. Number 436 MR. MCNALLY states the administration would certainly defer to the judgement of the legislature. SB 353 does involve a court rule change, which entails a two-thirds vote. Number 431 CHAIRMAN LEMAN says he would hope that fourteen senators would agree that six preemptory challenges for each side is sufficient. Number 430 SENATOR MILLER makes a motion to discharge SB 353 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 429 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing no objection, orders SB 353 released from committee with individual recommendations.