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Televised Testimony vs. the Confrontation Clause...The Use of Videotapes in the Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Houston Law Review Volume: 23 Issue: 5 Dated: (October 1986) Pages: 1215-1242
C M Clark
Date Published
27 pages
In 1983, the Texas Legislature enacted a statute setting forth procedures for the recording and presentation at trial of closed-circuit television and videotaped testimony of child sexual abuse witness-victims.
Two decisions in the Fifth Circuit Court have held the statute to be in violation of the defendant's confrontation rights, while serveral decisions in other appellate courts have rejected constitutional challenges. The issue is yet to be settled by the Court of Criminal Appeals. It is argued that the statute does not unconstitutionally deprive the defendant of his confrontation rights, although it does suffer from a number of deficiencies. First, the court should be required to conduct an inquiry into the professional competence of the person interviewing the child. Second, the court should carefully scrutinize the videotape to ensure that the quality of the tape is sufficient to preserve evidence of the witness' demeanor. In addition, the child should be produced for cross-examination immediately after the tape is shown. The court also should consider various factors in determining whether these procedures are in fact necessary to protect the well-being of the child. These include the child's age and emotional maturity, the impact of the trial on the child, the nature of the offense, and the nature of the victim-offender relationship. Finally, the court should exercise extreme caution in employing these procedures lest frequent reversals of convictions result. 153 footnotes.