Effects of Age and Gender on Jurors' Evaluation of Partial and Complete Transcripts of a Child Witness’s Testimony
The way in which children are allowed to give their testimony in cases of suspected sexual abuse has long been a topic of discussion around the world. Many countries have modified their laws to allow children to give testimony through pre-recorded interviews, rather than in person in a courtroom. This change also provides the opportunity for videos or transcripts of those videos to be truncated by the prosecution allowing them to present only the material they perceive to be relevant to the charges at hand. When this happens, the jury may be shielded from additional, and often less plausible allegations that are made by the same child. The aim of the present experiment was to examine the effects of truncated transcripts of a child’s testimony on jurors’ decision-making and to determine whether the age or gender of the child or the gender of the defendant plays a role in the outcome of a trial. Mock jurors read a transcript of a child’s testimony, which contained either a core allegation only, or the core allegation presented in conjunction with two additional, less plausible allegations. Some jurors were told that the child complainant was 4-years old and others were told that the child complainant was 6-years old. We also varied the gender of the defendant and the gender of the child. We found that the additional allegations had no effect on jurors’ verdict regarding the core allegation, irrespective of the gender of the child complainant or of the defendant. However, jurors were more likely to find the defendant guilty if the child complainant was 6-years old rather than 4-years old. These findings suggest that presenting a truncated transcript of an evidential interview does not impact jurors’ decision making, but the age of the child complainant can influence the outcome of a trial.
Advisor: Hayne, Harlene; Gross, Julien
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology Department
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: juror; jury; child; children; verdicts; age; gender; guilty; transcript; child witness; full transcript; partial transcript
Research Type: Thesis