Juror Reactions to Child Victim Witnesses: Factors Affecting Trial Outcome

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Abstract

Trial variables that might affect juror decisions were examined in two experiments, In Experiment 1, the impact of (1) corroboration, (2) type of case (civil vs. criminal), and (3) victim age (6, 9, or 12 years) was examined, Participants (N = 379) read a trial summary describing a wrongful injury or sexual abuse case and were asked to make decisions regarding the case. Results revealed a significant interaction between age and corroboration. Corroboration increased the number of guilty verdicts for the 6- and 12-year-olds, yet had little impact in the case with the 9-year-old. Contrary to expectations, the type of the case did not interact with child age in affecting jurors’ decisions. Experiment 2 examined the role of a child's age more systematically. The trial summary described the corroborated sexual abuse case (utilized in Experiment 1) and varied the age of the victim from 6 to 14 years. Analyses revealed that number of guilty verdicts and credibility decreased with age, whereas amount of blame attributed to the victim increased with age. Reasons for the negative age bias are discussed.

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