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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 141614 Find in a Library
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:17  Issue:1  Dated:(February 1993)  Pages:59-81
Author(s): A G Walker
Date Published: 1993
Page Count: 23
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined official court transcripts to determine whether or not a child witness, based on conceptual and communicative skills as revealed in responses to questions, was competent to testify.
Abstract: When the competency of a witness is an issue in a court case, two of the tests that must be met are the capacity to understand the questions propounded and the ability to make intelligent answers. There is no reciprocal test that a questioner must meet, however, that measures his or her competency to ask intelligent, easily understood, and unambiguous questions. For an adult witness, poorly worded questions may simply be a nuisance, but for a child, they may be a potentially serious source of miscommunication. In this analysis of the transcripts of one child's testimony, some aspects of this problem are exposed by means of a linguistic analysis of the questions asked and answers given. Three chief sources of communicative mischief are shown to be age-inappropriate vocabulary, complex syntax, and general ambiguity. The child's legal competency is examined from the perspective of her linguistic and communicative competence, and some questions are raised about the criteria for determining competency. 35 references
Main Term(s): Competency to testify
Index Term(s): Juvenile witnesses; Witness credibility
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