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The influence of recantation, witness demeanor, and expert testimony on child witness credibility in sexual abuse prosecutions

Posted on:2009-12-26Degree:Psy.DType:Dissertation
University:Alliant International University, San Francisco BayCandidate:Narensky, ChristinaFull Text:PDF
Two factors have been shown to influence witness credibility and trial outcome in child sexual abuse prosecutions: (a) the demeanor of the child witness, and (b) the testimony of experts regarding the reactions of children to sexual abuse. A third factor, (c) child witness inconsistency (recantation) has been presumed to be similarly influential. The present study evaluated the effects of these three factors on witness credibility and trial outcome. A national sample of 272 jury eligible participants read trial summaries portraying a child sexual abuse (CSA) prosecution in which a 10-year-old girl accused her stepfather of sexual abuse. All trial summaries included testimony from the victim, the victim's mother, the defendant, and a social worker. Child victim witness inconsistency (the presence or absence of a pretrial, reaffirmed recantation), child witness demeanor (the child displayed a calm demeanor, or appeared hesitant and tearful during testimony), and expert psychological testimony (expert testimony delivered in rebuttal to the defense's child-credibility challenges, or testimony delivered by the child during the prosecution's re-direct, in rebuttal to the defense's child credibility challenges), was varied in a between-subjects design to test 4 hypotheses. Participants' voted for guilt or innocence, rated witness credibility, expert knowledgeability and the strength of the prosecution's case. Results highlighted the negative influence of child victim-witness inconsistency, but failed to support hypotheses about child witness demeanor, or the usefulness of expert psychological testimony in CSA prosecutions that have been complicated by a child victim's inconsistent pretrial statements. Juror characteristics and personal history also emerged as significant influences on percipient witness credibility and trial outcome.
Keywords/Search Tags:Witness, Child, Sexual abuse, Influence, Demeanor, Testimony, Expert, Recantation
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