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When Lawyers Question Children: Is Justice Served?

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 19 Issue: 6 Dated: (December 1995) Pages: 609-629
N W Perry; B D McAuliff; P Tam; L Claycomb; C Dostal; C Flanagan
Date Published
21 pages
The impact of some complex question forms frequently used by attorneys who examine and cross-examine witnesses in the courtroom was studied using 15 males and 15 females from each of four student populations: kindergarten, fourth grade, ninth grade, and college.
The participants viewed a videotaped incident and then responded to questions about the incident. Half the questions were asked in the complex question forms used by attorneys; the remaining half asked for the same information using simply phrased question forms of the same length. Results revealed that the complex forms confused children, adolescents, and young adults alike. Questions that included multiple parts with mutually exclusive responses were the most difficult to answer. Those that included negatives, double negatives, or difficult vocabulary also posed significant problems. Findings suggested that complex question forms impede truth-seeking and should be prohibited in court. Tables, figures, list of questions, and 51 references (Author abstract modified)