Behav Sci Law 2014 Nov-Dec;32(6):846-66. Epub 2014 Dec 2.
Department of Psychology, University of California, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616, U.S.A.
Although decisions in child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are influenced by many factors (e.g., child age, juror gender), case and trial characteristics (e.g., interview quality) can strongly influence legal outcomes. In the present study, 319 prospective jurors read about a CSA investigation in which the alleged victim was interviewed at a child advocacy center (CAC) or traditional police setting. The prospective jurors then provided legally relevant ratings (e.g., child credibility, interview quality, defendant guilt). Structural equation modeling techniques revealed that child credibility predicted greater confidence in guilt decisions and also mediated all associations with such decisions. Having fewer negative prior opinions and rating the interview as of better quality were associated with higher child credibility ratings. Mitigating factors (e.g., interview quality), as opposed to proxy indicators (e.g., participant gender), better predicted CSA case outcomes. Similar associations across groups (e.g., CAC interviews did not make child victims more or less credible) permit a tentative conclusion that CACs do not positively or negatively affect decisions made in hypothetical CSA cases. Ideas for future studies examining factors influencing decisions in CSA cases are discussed.