Beyond Victims of Sexual Perverts: Expanding Shielding to All Juvenile Witnesses
University of Georgia Law School
September 18, 2009
In Maryland v. Craig, the Supreme Court approved shielding child abuse victim-witnesses from the presence of the defendant while the witnesses testified. The genesis for shielding laws was social science evidence demonstrating trauma to child sex abuse victims who, while testifying, confronted defendants. Because the Supreme Court to date has declined to consider the scope of applicability of Craig, the current legal landscape of shielding rules suffers from a lack of uniformity on the breadth of applicability of shielding. Consequently, if a juvenile witness does not fall within the class of witnesses protected by a shielding statute, then the witness may be forced to testify in the defendant’s presence and without being shielded. Such an event may traumatize the child, just as it might a child sexual abuse victim-witness. This Article contends that Craig should be interpreted to extend to all juvenile witnesses regardless of age, nature of the case, or relationship of the child to the case as victim or witness. The Court’s rationale in Craig is sufficiently broad to warrant extension of shielding to all juveniles in any case, yet narrow enough to avoid eviscerating the right of confrontation. To implement the changes argued for herein, the Article recommends that legislatures adopt the Uniform Child Witness Testimony by Alternative Methods Act with one essential change: revise the Act’s age limit from thirteen years of age to eighteen years of age.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 64
Keywords: Juveniles, Confrontation Right, Shielding
Date posted: September 18, 2009 ; Last revised: March 27, 2011