Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/14/1994 09:07 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                     
 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              
 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                 
 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.                                               
 for consideration.  The chairman asks how frequent the ten                    
 preemptory challenges are used by the defense in selection of a               
 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.                                    

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