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Sacrificing the Child to Convict the Defendant: Secondary Traumatization of Child Witnesses by Prosecutors, Their Inherent Conflict of Interest, and the Need for Child Witness Counsel

49 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2012  

Tanya Asim Cooper

Pepperdine University - School of Law

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

In criminal cases, prosecutors often compound the trauma child witnesses endure. That secondary traumatization — the intimidation and disregard of child witnesses by authorities — threatens the integrity of the entire criminal justice system. While unfortunate, perhaps secondary traumatization of child witnesses by prosecutors is inevitable because prosecutors have multiple duties to juggle besides attending to the child. Prosecutors must protect society and even respect the rights of the accused. Fulfilling these other prosecutorial duties might conflict with the needs and wishes of the child witnesses. Because prosecutors have multiple roles and responsibilities, which they interpret differently, and because the Supreme Court has recently made prosecuting crimes against children more difficult, the potential for prosecutors to mistreat their complaining child witnesses, even unwittingly, has increased. To combat this problem, child witnesses need lawyers. The need for independent counsel with clearly defined roles for representing child witnesses in criminal cases is timely, and for children’s rights advocates, it is the “next frontier.”

Keywords: Child witness, prosecutors, ethics, criminal law, child victim, testimony, guardian ad litem, children’s rights

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Tanya Asim, Sacrificing the Child to Convict the Defendant: Secondary Traumatization of Child Witnesses by Prosecutors, Their Inherent Conflict of Interest, and the Need for Child Witness Counsel (2011). Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal, Vol. 9, Page 239, 2011; U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2174482. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2174482

Tanya Cooper (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - School of Law

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

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