The effects of question repetition on responses when prosecutors and defense attorneys question children alleging sexual abuse in court
Andrews, Samantha J
Lyon, Thomas D
Law and Human Behavior
American Psychological Association
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Andrews, S. J., Lamb, M., & Lyon, T. D. (2015). The effects of question repetition on responses when prosecutors and defense attorneys question children alleging sexual abuse in court. Law and Human Behavior, 39 559-570. https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000152
Abstract This study examined the effects of repeated questions (n = 12,169) on 6- to 12-year-olds’ testimony in child sexual abuse cases. We examined transcripts of direct- and cross-examinations of 120 children, categorizing how attorneys asked repeated questions in-court and how children responded. Defense attorneys repeated more questions (33.6% of total questions asked) than prosecutors (17.8%) and repeated questions using more suggestive prompts (38% of their repeated questions) than prosecutors (15%). In response, children typically repeated or elaborated on their answers and seldom contradicted themselves. Self-contradictions were most often elicited by suggestive and option-posing prompts posed by either type of attorney. Child age did not affect the numbers of questions repeated, the types of prompts used by attorneys to repeat questions, or how children responded to repetition. Most (61.5%) repeated questions were repeated more than once and, as repetition frequency increased, so did the number of self-contradictions. ‘Asked-and-answered’ objections were rarely raised (n = 45) and were more likely to be overruled than sustained by judges. Findings suggest that attorneys frequently ask children ‘risky’ repeated questions. Both attorneys and the judiciary need more training in identifying and restricting the unnecessary repetition of questions.
Repeated questions, children, sexual abuse, defense cross-examination, prosecution direct-examination
This research was supported in part by NICHD Grant HD047290 to Thomas D. Lyon and an ESRC studentship to Samantha J. Andrews.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000152
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/252566