Convicted rapist Salvador Cruz was sentenced to 53 years in prison for multiple charges of child rape Friday.
Cruz is well-known for representing himself in court in a case that sent one of his victims to the roof of the king county courthouse.
Cruz was found guilty of four counts of first-degree child rape, two counts of third-degree child rape and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. He was also found guilty of six aggravators that will add to his prison sentence.
One of of his victims tried to jump off the King County Courthouse skybridge last November. Since then, a bill was introduced hoping to protect victims of sexual assault.
“I heard from so many friends, constituents, citizens and jurors about this case that this really has become an important issue for me, recognizing the need to protect these victims in the courtroom," says Rep. Roger Goodman.
House Bill 1001, written by Rep. Goodman, requires state courts to better protect victims of sexual assault. Under current law, suspects who represent themselves in court can cross-examine their alleged victims face to face.
“I'm hopeful it will prevent victims from experiencing excessive trauma in the courtroom so I hope the committee will support this legislation," says Rep. Goodman.
Under the proposed law, defendants' questions would be asked through a third party after first being screened by the judge, but not everyone in Olympia thinks it's a good idea.
"The legislature does not tell the courts how to make the rules. The court has that authority," says Sen. Adam Kline.
A similar bill drafted last year easily passed the House, but the Senate never got to vote on it. Sen. Kline, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused to hold a hearing on the measure he called unconstitutional.
"If Rep. Goodman wants a hearing if the bill comes over, alright it'll have a hearing if we have time on the agenda," says Kline.
Sen. Kline points out judges have the authority to restrict defendants like Salvador Cruz from confronting their victims on the stand, but they don't often use it because without the cover from a law like Goodman's because doing so would provide strong grounds for appeal.
Kline says this bill is not a priority.
"I would put it near the bottom of the agenda. We'll hear it if there's time to hear it. There are so many more bills that actually do something that's necessary," says Kline.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously Thursday morning. Supporters are hopeful this year it will make it to the governor's desk.
HB 1001 now moves to the House Rules Committee before going to the House floor for a vote. It would then move to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If adopted the rules would have to be in place by the end of July.
There were two amendments added to the bill. One which would not require the defendant to remain seated during questioning. Legislators learned some rural courtrooms only have standing podiums. Also that juries not consider the manner of questioning and only the facts of the case.