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DAs, crime victims oppose grand jury recordings bills

Passage could make victims more vulnerable during and after testimony, groups say


District attorneys from more than a half dozen counties joined crime victims and victim advocates in Lake Oswego two weeks ago to protest two state Senate bills they say would harm witnesses during grand jury proceedings.

SB 822 instructs grand jurors to take extensive notes of all proceedings, except deliberations and voting, and permits audio recordings of grand jury testimony. SB 365 would allow such notes and recordings to be made available to district attorneys, defendants and defense teams, barring special circumstances.

SB 822 was sponsored by state Sens. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg), Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) and Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), and Reps. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach).

Opponents of the bills — including the Oregon District Attorneys Association — said that while they do not object to judicial transparency, grand jury proceedings are a special case and crime victims could be cowed and made more vulnerable by the prospect of having records of their testimony made available.

Steve Doell, who founded Crime Victims United, expressed his concerns at the May 14 press conference over what he viewed as “flawed” legislation.

“Crime victims have been cut out of the process,” said Doell, whose own daughter was murdered in Lake Oswego in 1992. “We have not been asked to participate in the drafting of (SB 822). We have not been asked how this bill will affect crime victims in the process itself, how it will affect their rights, their privacy and their safety. There is the potential for victims to be reinjured — specifically in cases of domestic violence, gang activity or attempted murder.”

The bills are the result of a call for greater transparency in grand jury proceedings, stemming from a perceived nationwide frustration with a recent spate of police officer-involved shootings. But Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson noted that a separate bill —Senate Bill 871, currently in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means — would require grand jury proceedings in officer-involved cases to be recorded and, in some cases, released publicly.

Angela Foster voiced her own objections to the bills, detailing her experience with the judicial system shortly after her then-husband, Kaliq Mansor, was accused of killing their 11-week-old son in 2011. Mansor was ultimately convicted on 10 counts, including murder by abuse, in 2013.

Foster described how she was compelled to testify to a grand jury shortly after the unexpected death of her son, Bryan — a time when she was still in shock.

“I believed (Mansor) was innocent until 10 minutes before I was asked to testify in the grand jury,” Foster said, adding that she was presented with evidence of Mansor’s suspicious computer searches mere moments before she went into court.

“When it was over and I left, I was literally in fear for my life,” Foster said. “I went into hiding. I had family members install alarm systems in their homes. I knew that my ex-husband’s family was aware I had testified, and that they blamed me for his indictment. They were convinced that my testimony was what indicted him. They believe that to this day. I have very, very grave concerns about this bill.

“To put the onus on the victims to request this protection (from being recorded),” she added, “is just ludicrous.”

Foster called it “misinformed” to “ask us to do that less than a month after we lost someone, or after we suffered a horrific crime.”

SB 822 is currently before the Ways and Means Committee, while SB 365 is in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

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