(Nov. 19) – Aided by a new law authored by Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), the Denver district attorney’s office has won a conviction in a rape case in which a developmentally disabled woman was the victim.
The new law extends to developmentally disabled adults the same exception to the hearsay rule already granted to children who are victims of sexual assault.
Developmentally disabled individuals are often exceedingly shy about talking in front of a roomful of strangers – especially when they’re asked to discuss sexual assaults they have been victims of.
The inability to obtain their testimony in court often hindered prosecutions of assaults against the developmentally disabled. Many prosecutors avoid such cases even though the developmentally disabled are far more likely to become victims of sexual assaults.
“People with developmental disabilities are victimized because they are vulnerable, and then they are victimized again when their cases are not prosecuted,” Rep. Fields said. “The new law offers these victims an opportunity for justice.”
Her bill, HB12-1085, changed the balance by allowing developmentally disabled adults to testify in court-supervised settings outside the courtroom, where they feel more comfortable.
The bill passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in April. The conviction in Denver was the first in which the new law was applied.
In the case decided last week, a developmentally disabled 25-year-old Denver woman was allowed to give a forensic interview outside of court, detailing three rapes she suffered at the hands of Ennio Daniel, her coworker at a residential facility for the elderly.
A DVD of the forensic interview was played in court. After hearing the victim’s detailed testimony, a jury convicted Daniel on Nov. 14 of two counts of sexual assault on an at-risk adult and one count of second-degree kidnapping. Sentencing was set for Jan. 28, when Daniel faces up to life in prison.
“This new law provides much-needed protection for some of the more vulnerable members of our population,” said Maggie Conboy, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case.