Jurors’ perceptions of hearsay in child sexual abuse cases.

Myers, J. E. B., Redlich, A. D., Goodman, G. S., Prizmich, L. P., & Imwinkelried, E. (1999). Jurors’ perceptions of hearsay in child sexual abuse cases. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 5, 388-419.

The authors examined jurors’ perceptions of child victims who testified in court and adult witnesses who repeated children’s hearsay statements. Data were collected from criminal courts in 2 major U.S. cities (42 juries and 248 jurors). After deliberating in child sexual abuse trials, jurors completed a detailed questionnaire concerning their perceptions of the main child victim involved in the case and the adult who spoke with the child prior to trial about abuse and who testified about what the child disclosed (the adult-hearsay witness). In all trials, a child victim and adult-hearsay witness testified. Results are discussed in relation to trial outcome, child credibility, and adult-hearsay witness credibility. Implications for use of hearsay evidence in child abuse cases are also addressed.

Strong ceiling effect (92% of juries convicted); jury verdicts not significantly related to victim age, duration of abuse, or abuser’s relationship to victim. All trials involved live testimony by child as well as hearsay testimony by adult.