Videotaped Versus In-Court Witness Testimony: Does Protecting the Child Witness Jeopardize Due Process?1


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    The authors would like to thank Margaret Bull Kovera for her assistance in editing the videotapes of the trial and her comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The authors would also like to thank Laura Dininni and Jami Albert for their assistance in data collection and coding. This research was supported in part by a subcontract to the second author from the National Council of Jewish Women's Center for the Child and the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Grant #90-CA-1273.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Janet K. Swim, Department of Psychology, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802.


Videotaping depositions may protect a child witness from the stress of testifying in court but also may influence jurors’ perceptions of the child and the defendant, and jurors’ verdicts in systematic ways. The present study examines several psychological hypotheses that emerge from the controversy over the use of videotaped depositions of child witnesses in child sexual abuse trials. We predicted that student jurors viewing a videotaped deposition would be more proprosecution and less prodefense than those who did not receive testimony in such a form. Thus, it was predicted that jurors viewing a videotaped deposition would perceive the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies more favorably, the defense witnesses and their testimonies less favorably, and give more guilty verdicts than jurors who viewed identical testimony during the course of a trial. We also predicted that females would be more proprosecution and less prodefense than males and that this gender difference would be accentuated by the medium of presentation. The medium of presentation had only a few effects on jurors’ responses. However, when differences emerged, they generally provided support for the predicted main effects. The implications of these findings for the use of videotaped depositions of child sexual abuse victims are discussed.