Sacramento– Today, Assembly Republican Whip, Devon J. Mathis (R-Porterville), issued the following statements regarding the Assembly Public Safety Committee’s refusal to pass AB 2017, Kelsey’s Law:
“I am outraged by the misguided decision of the Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman to oppose, and ultimately kill Kelsey’s Law,” said Mathis. “This common-sense, bipartisan bill would have given our children with intellectual disabilities a fair voice in the courtroom. Instead, the Chair has unilaterally ruled that these children should be subjected to repeated trauma and interrogation while on the witness stand. I am repulsed by this lack of humanity.”
AB 2017 would have allowed victims of child abuse with an intellectual disability (IDD) to present out-of-court statements that can be used in a criminal prosecution case without having to testify in person, as is currently granted to minors under the age of 12.
“Instead of working with me or my office, the Chair and committee staff saw fit to ensure the demise of this bill,” said Mathis. “I have always made a point to work with the committee and hear the concerns of the opposition. However, that courtesy seems to fall by the wayside for the Chair and his staff. I implore the committee to reconsider this harsh dismissal of the pleas of the IDD community to bring the perpetrators of abuse to justice.”
Individuals with disabilities are not only chronically underrepresented in the judicial process, but are far more likely to be victims of crime when compared to those that are non-disabled. Data released from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2021 found that the rate of violent victimization against persons with disabilities was nearly four times the rate for persons without disabilities. Furthermore, only 19% of rapes or sexual assaults against persons with disabilities were reported to police, compared to 36% of those against persons without disabilities.
“I thank my colleagues who stood with me and Assemblymember Grayson in defending our IDD community,” said Mathis. “Further, I thank the members who defied the Chair and abstained on my measure. I encourage all of my colleagues to work with me to bring about this critical resource for our children with IDD. Access to justice should never be dependent or contingent upon the ability to be understood by the criminal justice system.”