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We Build Alaska

Video of former representative describing brother’s murder highlights proposed grand jury change

Today, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kati Capozzi included a gut wrenching video in her Friday Five email to chamber members. In the video, former Representative Ralph Samuel describes the horrible story of how he and his father discovered the body of his murdered brother in 1989.

Capozzi thanked several board members for their work on Victims’ Rights, including Samuels. You can watch the video here:

 

It’s hard watching him recall his brother’s murder, what it’s like to be a victim of violent crime, and how it impacts people for their entire lives. The video begs the question: “If Samuels still gets this emotional decades after the murder of his brother, what was it like for him right after the murder?”

After the murder, Samuels or his father had to testify before the grand jury. They had already given statements to the police and a district attorney, but one of them still had to testify. Samuels did not want his father to have to relive what happened, so he testified before the grand jury.

The federal government and most states do not require victims to testify during grand jury proceedings. However, they still have to testify at trial.

House Bill 66, a now-omnibus crime bill currently in the Senate Finance Committee, would allow witnesses, such as police, doctors, or other law enforcement personnel to testify at grand jury proceedings and/or play video or audio recordings. This would avoid having victims relive the crime all over again. This meaningful victims’ rights change could positively impact thousands of Alaska crime victims every year.

The opposition has been telling people that this provision would open the door to “Ted Stevens” types of abuses. That is not the case. The abuses in the Ted Stevens case occurred during discovery – the prosecutors did not disclose exculpatory evidence, and thus created an unfair trial. That has nothing to do with grand jury proceedings, and nothing to do with the changes proposed in HB 66.

There are important reasons why the government needs to have proper evidence when charging people with crimes. But there are also good reasons why victims should not be forced to relive what is often the worst event of their life when they have already told law enforcement what happened. Watch Samuels video, and decide for yourself.

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Dan
1 month ago

At the very least, “victims” should be given the opportunity to testify in front of the Grand Jury. During my GJ service, multiple cases involved “victims” who clearly did not consider themselves to have been criminally victimized and use their testimony to make sure that the jurors understand their opposition to the charges. The prosecutors goal is usually to avoid trial, so the grand jury is the best opportunity to hold prosecutors accountable. When the DA has a hostile victim, the GJ neds to be given the opportunity to hear from that victim and ask them questions.

Marlin Savage
1 month ago

Back in the 1980’s, I was on grand jury for several months. A lot of them had to do with child sexual abuse and deaths caused by others. We heard several cases during that period of time. All children testified by video and some adults also testified by video.

Ed Martin Jr
27 days ago
Reply to  Marlin Savage

Marlin are you saying this bill’s section on victim’s testimony wasn’t necessary? Explain please.

Ed Martin Jr
27 days ago

Come on again Jeff “The opposition ” state who they are ! Was it one of the EGOTISTIC jerks in our legislature of the unified Boneheads my guess is several not just one!