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Children's Out-of-Court Statements: Effects of Hearsay on Jurors' Decisions

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1998
262 pages
This study investigated the effects of children's out-of- court statements on jurors' perceptions of witness credibility and defendant guilt.
Three studies were conducted. The first study involved holding mock trials with community members as jurors. Mock jurors were presented with children's testimony in one of three experimental conditions: live, on videotape, or through an adult witness who had interviewed the child prior to trial. The second study also involved holding mock trials, but the trials were based on actual cases of child sexual assault. Mock jurors were presented with the children's allegations through videotaped investigative interviews or through an adult-hearsay witness (an in-court witness describing a child's out-of-court statements). Moreover, a third set of jurors in the second study both viewed the videotape during the trial and were allowed access to the videotape during deliberations. In the third study detailed surveys were distributed to actual jurors who had just reached verdicts in child sexual abuse trials. In all three studies, jurors' judgments of child and adult-hearsay witnesses and of defendant guilt were obtained. Results show that jurors view adult-hearsay witness testimony with a degree of skepticism that leads to doubts about case details and children's disclosures; this indirectly affects decisions about a defendant's guilt. Findings are discussed in relation to legal concerns about the admission of hearsay testimony.

Date Published: January 1, 1998