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Impact of Pre-Recorded Video and Closed Circuit Television Testimony by Adult Sexual Assault Complainants on Jury Decision-Making: An Experimental Study

NCJ Number
Natalie Taylor; Jacqueline Joudo
Date Published
126 pages
This Australian study used mock sexual assault jury trials to determine the impact on the juries of having an adult sexual assault complainant testify via closed circuit television (CCTV), prerecorded videotape, or face-to-face in the courtroom; the impact of emotional compared with neutral complainant testimony was also examined.
Eighteen trials that involved 18 juries and 210 jurors were conducted between June and July 2005. Jurors were members of the public who volunteered to participate in the mock trials. Professional actors played the roles of trial participants. The script for the trial was from an actual sexual assault court case, modified to ensure the presence of elements often involved in sexual assault cases. The script was shortened to accommodate the constraints of the research. Only the complainant testified. After watching the trial but before jury deliberation, jurors completed individual questionnaires that solicited the perceptions of complainant credibility, empathy with the complainant, overall impression of the complainant, empathy with the accused, overall impression of the accused, and personal beliefs about the guilt of the accused. Jurors then deliberated as a jury for up to 1 hour in an attempt to reach a unanimous verdict. After deliberation, jurors completed a questionnaire that asked again about their beliefs regarding guilt. Jurors also completed a questionnaire about their attitudes toward rape victims in general. The key study finding was that the mode of testimony did not have a significant impact on jury outcomes; nor was there any consistent impact on the jurors' perceptions or decisions based on the victim's presentation style; however, the study did find that jurors' personal beliefs, the requirement to convict beyond reasonable doubt, and the difficulty in understanding what "consent" meant were factors that influenced the jurors' deliberation and decision. None of the juries returned a guilty verdict. 20 tables, 20 figures, 48 references, and appended methodology, juror eligibility criteria, scale items and reliabilities, statistical tables, and layout of the mock courtroom