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Cross Examination of Child Witnesses
Cross-Examination of Child Witnesses
Attorney David A. Breston believes that in order to cross examine a child witness, the attorney needs to find out as much about that witness as possible. Normally most lawyers try and ask leading questions that they know the answers to. Unlike an adult, child witnesses are unpredictable and this technique may not work as well. David Breston also believes that this technique is overrated in general. In these types of cases, David believes that it is important to have a discussion with a child witness. After all, the jurors are especially critical if an attorney tries to scream at a child who says they were a victim. So rule one with child witnesses is to go slow and be friendly. If you go slow and are friendly then the child may end up giving you valuable information during their testimony.
It is always best to find out as much about the child as possible. Knowing what kind of activities the child likes may soften the child up and also shows the jury that you are not a bad person. Also, by finding out more information about the child one can sometimes catch discrepancies in their videos or discrepancies in the offense report.
It also important to understand the family history. An attorney needs to try and understand what the child gets in trouble for. Normally, a child lies for the same reason that an adult lies. Children lie to get out of trouble or perhaps to get attention.
Often times, when you ask the child whether they remember this or that, the child will say they do not remember. One of the primary defenses in these types of cases is that the parents or CPS asked leading questions and drilled these allegations into the child’ mind. If the attorney asks leading questions then it is difficult to tell the jury that the questions posed to the child by her parents or by CPS were inappropriate. The key in cross-examining the child is to get as much good information from them as possible without alienating the jury.
The first thing an attorney should do in preparing to cross-examine a child witness is to obtain as many records on them as possible. Normally, this would include medical records, school records, and CPS records. Many attorneys assume that the offense report which the state has in its possession contains all of the allegations. Once you obtain the CPS records there are often times multiple allegations. Some of these reports show that when the child was first interviewed she did not disclose any allegations of sexual abuse. Obviously, it is best to try and interview the child or the child’s parents personally, but most of the time these witnesses are not willing to talk.
If the child is very young, a defense attorney can challenge his or her competency to testify. Then the court will have to have a competency hearing to determine whether or not the child can testify. The child must be intelligent enough to respond to the questions which are asked. Normally, this means that the child must know the difference between the truth and a lie.
For a free initial consultation with a sex crime defense attorney, call the Law Office of David A. Breston at 888-220-4040 or contact us online.