Expert Testimony on the Suggestibility of Children: Does it Fit?
27 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2000
Date Written: July 1999
There is a trend among American courts toward admitting defense expert testimony on the suggestibility of children in sexual abuse cases. This paper argues that there are good reasons to limit or exclude such testimony in a large proportion of cases. I emphasize the issue of "fit": review of appellate case law and the research on sexual abuse and suggestibility reveals that expert testimony often fails to match the research findings or does not fit the facts of the case. I discuss other arguments against admitting such testimony, and emphasize their limitations. These arguments include the objection that expert testimony regarding suggestibility invades the province of the jury, is not helpful to the jury because it is common sense, and is not scientific knowledge.
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