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Confrontation Clause

Washington University in St. Louis

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Throwing A Toy Wrench In The “Greatest Legal Engine”: Child Witnesses And The Confrontation Clause, Jonathan Clow Jan 2015

Throwing A Toy Wrench In The “Greatest Legal Engine”: Child Witnesses And The Confrontation Clause, Jonathan Clow

Washington University Law Review

Cross-examination of witnesses has often been called the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” Enshrined in the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, this most basic feature of an adversarial legal system guarantees criminal defendants the right to have the prosecution’s witnesses testify in open court and the opportunity to question said witnesses in front of the jury.

The premise underlying this “greatest legal engine” is challenged, however, when children are the “witnesses against” the defendant. Social science and psychological research in recent decades suggest that cross-examination of child witnesses could actually interfere with the ...