Wrongful Acquittals of Child Sexual Abuse

32 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2015

See all articles by Thomas D. Lyon

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Stacia Stolzenberg

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Kelly McWilliams

USC Gould School of Law

Date Written: November 5, 2015

Abstract

Ross Cheit’s book The Witch-Hunt Narrative highlights the difficulties of prosecuting child sexual abuse. Drawing examples from a single case, Alex A., we examine the ways in which false acquittals of sexual abuse are likely to occur. First, prosecutors tend to question children in ways that undermine their productivity and credibility. Second, prosecutors have difficulty in explaining to juries the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure, making children’s acquiescence to abuse and their failure to disclose when abuse first occurs incredible. Third, attorneys undermine children’s credibility by pushing them to provide difficult to estimate temporal and numerical information. A postscript to the Alex A. case illustrates the costs of wrongful acquittals.

Suggested Citation

Lyon, Thomas D. and Stolzenberg, Stacia and McWilliams, Kelly, Wrongful Acquittals of Child Sexual Abuse (November 5, 2015). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Forthcoming; USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS15-35; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2686730

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

Stacia Stolzenberg

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice ( email )

411 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ Arizona 85004
United States
6024960495 (Phone)

Kelly McWilliams (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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