Washington Law Review


Youth alone does not make a child witness' statements unreliable. Generally speaking, children are about as reliable as adults in reporting events they have actually perceived or experienced. However, a young child is, in certain respects, more vulnerable to suggestion than an adult and more liable to confuse memory of fact with memory of fantasy. The danger is that pretrial interviewing and preparation procedures will suggest facts and stimulate fantasies the child will thereafter report and recall as truth. Falsification of memory is far from inevitable and can be prevented by careful handling of the pretrial child witness procedures. But the potential for falsification is always present, and there is no guarantee that investigators will always take the the proper care. The solution to this problem is judicial review of the effects of child witness interviewing and preparation procedures in cases where child witness evidence will be used. Just as judges pass on the reliability of other types of evidence by assessing their foundations as a prerequisite to admission at trial, so they should review pretrial preparation procedures as a necessary predicate to admitting child witness evidence.

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