Philadelphia courts to let witnesses skip preliminary hearings

Witnesses will not have to testify at preliminary court hearings in Philadelphia anymore.  Police will be allowed to testify in their place, but not at trial.

State Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery says allowing hearsay testimony means attorneys can’t tire out witnesses and force them to give up on the case.

“That will save literally thousands of victims from showing up at preliminary hearings from taking time off from their work,” said McCaffery.  “Thousands of victims of losing time from their homes.”

Judge Renee Hughes says the new process will shield witnesses from intimidation.  “It is serious, it happens every day,” she said.  “It happened most recently in my court on Tuesday when people were taking pictures of me, my witnesses and texting about who my witnesses were.”

Judge Hughes says criminal charges could be filed in that case.  The judges say defendants’ rights are being protected, since they still will have the chance to confront their accusers, though it will be later in the court process.

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