Truth-Detection Devices and Victims of Sexual Violence: A Shortcut to Injustice

An overreliance on truth-detection devices and misunderstandings about the dynamics of sexual violence can correlate with a belief that their use with victims of sexual violence is the best method to conduct complete investigations even though such methods would never be entertained for victims of other types of crimes. This is alarming not only because the results of such tests are unreliable, but the very use of truth-detection devices with victims of sexual violence can do more harm to the victim and frustrate the pursuit of justice. While the utility of truth-detection tests for enticing suspects to agree to be interviewed has long been recognized, there is less appreciation that their use with victims of sexual violence is clearly irreconcilable with trauma-informed interviewing techniques designed to elicit victims’ fullest recollections of events while avoiding further harm. This article provides a brief overview on the his- tory and modern forms of truth-detection devices and discusses how the earliest concerns about their reliability and limitations continue to be valid today. It will discuss why truth-detection devices are inappropriate and how, in many jurisdictions, they are prohibited from being used when interviewing victims of sexual violence. Despite the reliability concerns, it will also be discussed how truth-detection devices remain a potentially useful tool during questioning of suspects.

Reaching a Verdict: Guiding the Jury’s Response to the Evidence

After being thrust into an unfamiliar role in a complex system that is often equally unfamiliar, jurors in sexual assault cases face the daunting task of reaching a just verdict for a crime that is shrouded in misconceptions. In this foreign terrain, prosecutors serve as a trusted guide—pointing out familiar landmarks of personal experience and presenting witnesses and other evidence in a manner that makes them both understandable and relatable. By assisting jurors in forming personal connections to the evidence, the prosecutor can remove obstacles that might otherwise block the jury’s path to a just finding of guilt. 

This presentation will discuss ways to focus the jury’s attention on the evidence in a manner that accurately conveys the reality of sexual assault and assists jurors in rendering a fair and just verdict—beginning with jury selection and continuing through opening statement, presentation of evidence, and summation.  

Who Should View
Allied justice system professionals including but not limited to prosecutors, law enforcement officers, community-based service providers, medical and mental health practitioners, probation and parole officers, judges, etc. are encouraged to view this webinar recording.

CLE Credits
This one-hour webinar recording should qualify prosecutors for one (1.0) hour of continuing legal education credits. Prosecutors are encouraged to contact their state bar association in reference to application requirements and related fees.

10 Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

The impact of sexual assault on a victim is devastating and the effects are long lasting. Victims of child sexual abuse may suffer physical injury, depression, self-destructive behavior, anxiety, feelings of isolation and stigma, shame, poor self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, a tendency toward re-victimization, substance abuse, and sexual maladjustment. When the perpetrator is a family member, victims often suffer the emotional scars of guilt, betrayal and fear as well. Judges and juries unfamiliar with the dynamics of sexual assault may overlook offenders’ grooming tactics or misperceive common victim reactions to abuse as evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. Prosecutors handling these cases face unique challenges. This article outlines ten strategies that will help prosecutors prepare and litigate cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member.


Evidence of Other “Bad Acts” in Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking Prosecutions

In proving a case of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, stalking, or human trafficking, it is often crucial to introduce evidence that the defendant has committed some other crime or bad act—usually before or after the charged crime. Such evidence is often viewed with caution by trial and appellate courts, because of the perceived risk that juries will convict the defendant based upon evidence that they committed some crime other than the one charged or that the defendant is a bad person and therefore probably guilty of the charged crime. Prosecutors should file pretrial motions in limine any time they anticipate introducing evidence of a defendant’s crimes or other bad acts, regardless of whether such a motion is required by law. It is important to identify, and to argue, any potentially applicable grounds for admission. This article describes the theories under which evidence of other bad acts might be admissible, depending on the law of the jurisdiction, gives examples, and offers further resources to help prosecutors overcome specific objections.