Hearsay versus children's testimony: Effects of truthful and deceptive statements on jurors' decisions

Law Hum Behav. 2006 Jun;30(3):363-401. doi: 10.1007/s10979-006-9009-0.

Abstract

Researchers and courts are focusing increasing attention on the reliability of children's out-of-court statements, especially in relation to trials of child sexual abuse. The main goal of this study was to investigate the effects of presentation of children's out-of-court statements (e.g., hearsay) on jurors' perceptions of witness credibility and defendant guilt, and on jurors' abilities to reach the truth. Child participants experienced either a mock crime or were coached to say they experienced the crime when in fact they had not. During elaborate mock trials involving community member jurors, children's testimony was presented either: (1) live, (2) on videotape, or (3) via a social worker. Analyses revealed that testimony format directly influenced jurors' perceptions of child and social worker credibility (e.g., children were perceived as less likely to provide false statements if they testified live) as well as jurors' sympathy toward the child, all of which then predicted jurors' confidence in defendant guilt. Jurors had difficulty discerning accurate from deceptive child statements regardless of testimony format. Implications for psychology and the legal system are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Deception*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • Videotape Recording