HB 667, titled “Duty of Candor,” passed the House originally as a bill that codified another right in Marsy’s Law, specifically that a criminal defense attorney or their staff could not misrepresent themselves to an alleged victim.
But on Monday, the Senate approved language from an unrelated bill that had failed to move through all of its committees. The amendment restricted the use of depositions in certain cases involving minor alleged victims.
A representative from the Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar, consisting equally of prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys, testified that the Section rejects this proposal.
Proponents of the new restriction say it’s meant to protect minor alleged victims from being re-victimized in a deposition.
An amendment on the Senate floor Monday would have automatically added a neutral mediator to the deposition, which is taken outside the presence of the accused, but the Senate rejected it in favor of language that would require a public hearing in front of the accused to determine whether the private deposition is allowed.
HB 667 is now in messages back to the House.
On Thursday morning in the House, Rep. Taylor Yarkosky filed an amendment replacing the Senate’s deposition restriction language with new language that hasn’t been heard in committee. The stage is set for the House to pick up the bill in messages and bounce it back to the Senate before Friday.
“It is well intended to protect victims, but it is causing the harm it seeks to prevent. The private deposition is used by both sides to resolve cases. Restricting them makes a public trial in front of the accused more likely,” said Aaron Wayt, Legislative Chair for the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“This bill legitimizes a boogeyman that’s been created by false narratives. None of the sponsors gave specific instances of defense attorneys attacking victims in deposition, prompting a need for this change. No prosecutors spoke about witnessing this. No one from the Florida Bar said there was a rash of complaints against defense attorneys. The system is not asking for this change and has recently rejected this change. Making this change rejects the evidence of your eyes and your ears.”