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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 219686 Find in a Library
Title: Juror Perceptions of Child Eyewitness Testimony in a Sexual Abuse Trial
Journal: Journal of Child Sexual Abuse  Volume:16  Issue:2  Dated:2007  Pages:79-95
Author(s): Matthew J. Holcomb; Kristine M. Jacquin
Date Published: 2007
Page Count: 17
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A mock child sexual abuse trial was used to study juror perceptions of child eyewitnesses, with the child's age (5, 11, or 16) and level of involvement (victim or bystander) being varied across conditions.
Abstract: The study found that jurors perceived a difference between child bystanders and child victim-witnesses. Jurors assigned higher levels of guilt to defendants in trials in which a child bystander was the testifying witness. Jurors viewed bystanders as more plausible witnesses compared to victims. In addition, the age of the witness, whether a bystander or a victim-witness, affected jurors' perceptions of the believability of a child's eyewitness testimony, with younger witnesses perceived as more believable than older witnesses. Defendants accused of abusing a younger victim received higher guilt ratings than those accused of abusing an older victim. The study recruited 201 participants (54.7 percent female and 63.5 percent Caucasian) from psychology classes at a large southern university. Six versions of a fictional sexual abuse trial were created for use in this study. The case material included judicial instructions for jurors and summarized the defense and prosecution arguments. These arguments included witness statements made by a child and the defendant. The defendant was an adult male, and the witness and victim (if different from the witness) were depicted as females. The cases were identical except for the independent variables of the child's age (5, 11, or 16) and the degree to which the child was involved in the crime (bystander or victim-witness). Study participants completed a demographic questionnaire; a verdict questionnaire; an eyewitness testimony questionnaire, which measured juror perceptions about the eyewitness testimony; and a manipulation check questionnaire, which assessed whether participants in the study read the cases presented to them and whether they retained important information contained in the case descriptions. 1 table 2 figures, and 31 references
Main Term(s): Juvenile witnesses
Index Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse; Child victims; Eyewitness testimony; Juries; Jury decisionmaking; Jury research
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