Having a Person Present Next to the Victim During Court Testimony in California

People v. Adams (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 412 involved a 16-year-old rape victim. The victim's father was permitted to remain in the courtroom during her testimony and sat next to or behind the victim while she testified. (People v. Adams, supra, 19 Cal.App.4th at p. 434.) There were also allegations that the father physically abused the victim. The Adams court rejected the claim that section 868.5 was inherently prejudicial and deprived Adams of a fair trial. (Adams, at p. 437.) However, that court found that having a support person present next to the victim during her testimony deprived the jury of the opportunity to view the demeanor of the witness "by changing the dynamics of the testimonial experience for the witness." (Id. at p. 438.) That conclusion was based on Coy v. Iowa (1988) 487 U.S. 1012. In Coy, the defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls. At trial, the girls testified behind a large screen. The defendant's ability to see the witnesses was impaired; the witnesses could not see the defendant at all. (Coy v. Iowa, supra, 487 U.S. at pp. 1014-1015.) The defendant objected strenuously to the use of the screen. (Id. at p. 1015.) The Supreme Court concluded that the defendant's Sixth Amendment right includes the right to face-to-face confrontation of the witnesses against him. (Coy, at pp. 1016-1020.) It then concluded the procedure used by the trial court violated that right and reversed the judgment. (Id. at pp. 1020-1022.)