New court rules

    Two Philadelphia judges want to eliminate the need for victims to testify in preliminary hearings for property crimes.

    Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are touting the plan as a way to increase the efficiency of the Philadelphia justice system.

    Police testimony would replace the victims in the preliminary trials, according a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

    What about a person’s right to confront his accusers, you ask?

    Yeah, defense attorneys are worried about that one too. They say the move could erode at defendants’ rights. Erode that is, because that fundamental right can be achieved after the preliminary hearing, according to policy supporters. Preliminary hearings are used to make the determination if a case has enough evidence to go to trial.

    Efficiency is the joy shout coming from Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ office. That’s easy to imagine when you don’t have to round up victims and witnesses twice.

    WHYY’s Elizabeth Fielder is on the case trying to find out if this shift would have a positive impact on the city’s abysmal conviction rate for felonies.

    The measure would need majority support from the seven member court.

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