Contact: State Rep. Kevin West
Office: (405) 557-7343
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that will allow expert court witnesses, in cases of domestic violence, to be able to present evidence of the effects of violence on victims and their children, as well as the risks abusers pose to the victims and children, has been signed into law by the governor after unanimous passage in the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 958, authored by Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, clarifies that in a court action in Oklahoma, if a party offers evidence of domestic violence, testimony of an expert witness may include but not be limited to the effects of such violence on the abused and shall be admissible as evidence.
“I would like to extend a special thank you to Senator Kay Floyd for being the Senate Author on Senate Bill 958,” West said. “It has been an honor to carry this much needed legislation in the House of Representatives. It is not acceptable that expert testimony regarding the effects of domestic violence on children and other family members is excluded. I am confident this will be a significant benefit to victims of domestic violence throughout our state, as well as a wake-up call for the abusers.”
Sen. Floyd said of the legislation, “Expert witnesses should be allowed to present research-based and data-driven testimony on the effects of domestic violence on children. This change is long overdue.”
Oklahoma City attorney Heather Mahieu Cline requested the legislation.
“It is essential for the Courts to understand the emotional and traumatic effect of domestic violence on victims and their children, as well as the risks the abuser poses to them,” Cline said. “This is best accomplished through the testimony of domestic violence experts.”
Cline said this change in law would reflect scientific research and the link between domestic violence and the emotional and behavioral trauma symptoms victims and their children exhibit as a result of this crime.
Current statute, strictly construed, does not allow testimony that includes the devastating impact of domestic violence witnessed by children, nor does it allow information to be presented that shows the common traits of abusers, the various types of domestic violence, generational cycles of violence or treatment options.
Cline said judges, instead, tend to bifurcate between such violence committed against parents and violence perpetrated directly against children. She advocates the statute should be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Under the measure, expert testimony would still be subject to vigorous cross-examination and the court would remain the gatekeeper for evidence and testimony presented at trial.