CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cooper on Traumatization of Child Witnesses

Cooper-Tanya Tanya Asim Cooper (University of Alabama - School of Law) has posted 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 (Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal, Vol. 9, Page 239, 2011) on SSRN. Here is the 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.”

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