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Comparison of Two Forms of Hearsay in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 7 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2002 Pages: 312-328
Allison D. Redlich; John E. B. Myers; Gail S. Goodman; Jianjian Qin
Mark Chaffin
Date Published
November 2002
17 pages
This study investigated and compared two forms of hearsay in child sexual abuse cases: videotaped hearsay of a child who describes abuse and hearsay from an adult who repeats the child’s words.
As a general rule, hearsay is inadmissible in the courtroom. However, the need for hearsay arises in child abuse cases when the child victim/witness may be considered “unavailable” to testify. Conditions under which a child would be determined unavailable to testify include; the child is deemed incompetent or testifying is judged to be unduly traumatic for the child. In the United States, a forensic interviewer or police officer is permitted to testify instead of the child, and in addition, forensic interviews of abused children are videotaped and presented at trial. These are considered various forms of hearsay. Little research exists to compare the effects of these various forms of hearsay. This study was designed to explore mock jurors’ perceptions of these two forms of hearsay concerning children who allege sexual abuse. The study consisted of a between-subject design with three levels of trial condition: videotape, videotape-deliberation, and police-officer conditions. A total of 170 community mock jurors participated in the study. The admission of hearsay in child sexual abuse cases has become increasingly flexible. Study results indicated that trial conditions did not directly affect jurors’ perceptions of defendant guilt or witness credibility. The best direct predictor of pre-deliberation defendant guilt was child believability. However, there was an indirect relation between trial condition and pre-deliberation guilt in the path analytic model. Finally, trial condition did not significantly influence post-deliberation ratings of witness credibility. The results may be informative to public policy makers, attorneys, judges, and others concerned with children’s welfare and their rights. References