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Alternatives to In-Court Testimony in Child Abuse Cases

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Electronic technology has advanced to a level that was previously unimaginable. Two new issues are the meaning of confrontation in an electronic age and the constitutionality of televised or videotaped testimony. The new technology provides tremendous opportunities to graphically recreate facts and events however, it also raises the dangers of factual distortion and undue influence. Nowhere is the use of electronic imagery more evident than in the prosecution of child sex abuse. Testimony via videotape or closed circuit television is being used with increasing frequency as a substitute for live, in-court testimony in the area of child sexual abuse. Forty-six states have statutes that specifically permit the use of a procedural substitute for a childs in-court testimony under certain limited conditions. The United States Congress has followed suit with the passage of the Crime Control Act of 1990, which authorizes federal courts to order the use of closed circuit television and videotaped testimony under specified circumstances in federal prosecutions for child abuse. Contrary to the trend in both federal and state courts, the military provides no procedural or judicial guidelines governing the use of televised or videotaped testimony by a child witness. Military judges are forced to improvise procedures on an ad hoc basis, relying upon case law and common sense. This situation is untenable, first, because the law fluctuates as new issues arise, and second, because the Supreme Court has refused to dictate any categorical evidentiary prerequisites for the use of the alternative procedure. This thesis recommends the adoption of a rule for courts-martial that would provide uniform procedural alternatives to in-court testimony in child abuse cases.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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