Chapter 6 Eyewitness Testimony
Reliability • Accuracy of memory • Influenced by questions, questioner, number of times the information is discussed • Over 75% of convictions based on EWT have been overturned by DNA testing innocenceproject.org
Word Choices • Car accident video, two cars • How fast were the cars going when they _____ into each other? • Smashed • Collided • Bumped • Hit • Contacted • Average speed changed based on word use
Smashed 41 • Collided 39 • Bumped 38 • Hit 34 • Contacted 32
Children EWT • Easy to distort children's memories • Leading questions • Age inappropriate • Repeat questions • Lack of source monitoring
Types of Questions • Open ended questions • Yes-No Pool and Lindsay (2001) Children’s eyewitness reports after exposure to misinformation from parents • Focused/specific questions • Multiple Choice
Types of Questions • Suggestive • Repeated questions • Double negative
Types of Questions • Speculative • Compound • Length
Source Monitoring • Definition • Examples • Benefits 5-8 year olds • No impact on 3-4 year olds Pool and Lindsay (2001) Children’s eyewitness reports after exposure to misinformation from parents
Dad: Grandma told me you told them something about tickling? Did ya? Child: No, I was talking with that girl. Dad: What’s that? Child: I was talking with that girl. Dad: What girl? Child: The girl that I got to play play dough with.
Dad: Yeah? • Child: That’s what we were talking about. • Dad: Well Grandma and Stepmother talked to you before you went to talk to that girl. She said that you told them something about tickling. Did they? Or did you? • Child: I only, I only did it when I was playing play dough. • Dad: You only did it when you were playing play dough?
Answers • Long narratives • Spontaneous answers • Inconsistent answers
“I don’t know” • Give the child permission to say “I don’t know” • Works best in a hostile or intimidating environment • Limitations • If child uses “I don’t know” Russell (2006) Best practices in child forensic interviews: Interview instruction and truth-like discussions, Hamile Journal of Public Law and Policy, 28(1), 99-130
Multiple Interviews • Source monitoring • Suggestive prior interviews • Coaching
Multiple Interviews • Question repetition • Details gained • Source monitoring • Revictimization • Reliving trauma • Traumatologist
False Memories • Created over time and repetition • Does not occur in the short term • Interviewing • Repeated questions • Repeated exposure to the ‘correct’ answer
33. Dad: You need to face the fact that you were lying this whole time or that your Mommy has tickled you in your privates. So have you been lying this whole time or has your Mommy tickled you in your privates? • 34. Child: She didn’t. • 35. Dad: What’s that? • 36. Child: She didn’t.
37. Dad: Then why are you lying to me now? Do you think that lying about whether Mommy has tickled you in your privates is going to change the fact of…do you think lying about it is going to change it? That’s wrong to do, bud. She should never do that to you. No one should ever do that to you. And you know what? I don’t care if it’s your Mommy, I don’t care if it’s your Daddy, I don’t care if it’s your Grandma or Stepmother. If anyone ever touches you there, you need to tell somebody. And you never lie about it, okay? You never ever lie about that. Did you lie to the people in Fargo about that?
38. Child: [Shaking his head “no.”] uh uh. • 39. Dad: They told me that you told them that nobody tickles you in your privates. Has anyone tickled you in your privates? • 40. [Child shakes his head “yes.”] • 41. Dad: Does it happen a lot? • 42. Child: Not very much.
Consistency and Accuracy • Belief that inconsistencies indicate inaccuracies • Consistency in children’s statements is not evidence of accuracy • Children lie Desmarais (2009) Examining report content and social categorization to understand consistency effects on children, Law and Human Behavior, 33:470-480.
Dad: Are you protecting mommy? Child: I’m not. Dad: Uh? Child: I’m not. Dad: Do you think I’m sitting here right now and now Grandma’s a liar and Stepmother’s a liar? Child: They both said that they want to play with play dough. Dad: What did they say? Child: That……..I was playing play dough. Dad: What’s that? Child: That I was playing with play dough.
Interview Protocols • Interview instructions • Deals with egocentric thinking • Promotes source monitoring • Lessen the perception of right and wrong answers • When to give instructions • Rapport building Russell (2006) Best practices in child forensic interviews: Interview instruction and truth-like discussions, Hamile Journal of Public Law and Policy, 28(1), 99-130
Legalese • Legalese/lawyerese • Is not the witness your relative? • Did A interfere with the argument and did A and B leave together? • Was there a time the victim was happy before the argument, but after getting home? • Misunderstanding
Question Repetition • Children successfully repeat • 85.7% of teachers’ questions • 99.4% of counselors’ questions • Lawyers’ questions • 11 year olds, 0% • 6 year olds, 50% Poole and lamb, 1998, Investigative interviews of children, American Psychological Association
Example • “All right, so between his patting you and his attempt or his trying to put his squash racquet in your bag there was nothing else, is that right?” • Child • “As you attempt trying to put his squash racquet in your bag there nothing else was there?” Warren 1996
“Easy” Questions • Children do not ask for clarification • Kindergartners gave wrong answers to 45% of “easy” questions • 4th graders, 9th graders, and college students gave wrong answers to 25% of “easy” questions Warren 1996
Language Awareness • Identify the communication breakdowns • Interviewer: Is it good or bad to tell a lie? • Child: GA touched me? • Interviewer: Jesus loves me? Is that what you said? • Child: Yeah. Warren 1996
Fantastic Elements • Interviewer: Do you remember last year before you told me your granddaddy pinched your hiney, do you remember who you thought it was who pinched you? • Child: The devil. I didn’t want to say the name I just called it that because I didn't like what he did so much Everson, Understanding bizarre, improbable, and fantastic elements in children’s accounts of abuse, Child Maltreatment, 1997, 2(2), 134-149
Interviewer: And I thought that was a very smart thing to do, because you let me know something happened to you and you also let me know you weren’t ready to tell who did it to you. So we did a lot of things to make you feel safer … I just have one more question about that. Was there anything that happened that made you say it was the devil?
Fantastic Elements • Child: The devil is bad and what Granddaddy did was bad. • Deflect blame or deny victimization • Miscommunication due to interviewer error
Fantastic Elements • 5 year old gave detailed disclosure about being fondled by teenaged babysitter • 30 minutes into the interview, interviewer called child by her sister’s name, who had also been abused • Child then reversed all her statements • Why? Everson, Understanding bizarre, improbable, and fantastic elements in children’s accounts of abuse, Child Maltreatment, 1997, 2(2), 134-149
Fantastic Elements • When fantastic elements are present • Examine within context of broader evaluation • Most victimized may be least precise • Be careful of over-reliance and dependence on child’s interview Everson, Understanding bizarre, improbable, and fantastic elements in children’s accounts of abuse, Child Maltreatment, 1997, 2(2), 134-149
Summary • EWT can be influenced by • Poor wording • Age inappropriate questions • Coaching • Repeated interviews • Interview protocols • Interviewer training • Evaluating EWT • Remember who is asking the questions • Remember the witnesses background