Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-Hunt Narrative highlights the difficulties of prosecuting child sexual abuse. Drawing examples from a single case, Alex A., we examine the ways in which false acquittals of sexual abuse are likely to occur. First, prosecutors tend to question children in ways that undermine their productivity and credibility. Second, prosecutors have difficulty in explaining to juries the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure, making children’s acquiescence to abuse and their failure to disclose when abuse first occurs incredible. Third, attorneys undermine children’s credibility by pushing them to provide difficult to estimate temporal and numerical information. A postscript to the Alex A. case illustrates the costs of wrongful acquittals.
Child Psychology | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Developmental Psychology | Evidence | Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law | Law and Psychology
Date of this Version
Thomas D. Lyon, Stacia N. Stolzenberg, and Kelly McWilliams, "Wrongful Acquittals of Child Sexual Abuse" (November 2015). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 186.