How a Forensic Interview Expert Could Save Your Criminal Trial

March 31, 2022 Criminal Defense

A forensic interview is a single interview, usually recorded, that is designed specifically to allow children to discuss claims about their own abuse or another’s abuse. These interviews are meant to be empathetic, supportive, and completely objective to elicit only honest responses from the child and avoid answers predicated on suggestive techniques. These interviews are often essential for the prosecution who will use them as a fact-finding technique. But these interviews are not always credible or reliable. If you have been accused of a crime where the alleged victim sat for a forensic interview, read more to find out how a forensic interview expert could explain inconsistencies or false statements made in the interviews.

What is a Forensic Interview Generally?

According to the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a forensic interview is:

A forensic interview of a child is a developmentally sensitive and legally sound method of gathering factual information regarding allegations of abuse or exposure to violence. This interview is conducted by a competently trained, neutral professional utilizing research and practice informed techniques as part of a larger investigative process.

What Does a Forensic Interview Expert Witness Do?

Most people assume that forensic interview expert witnesses are applicable only for prosecution. Since the interviewer who conducts the forensic interview described above usually does so after an allegation has been made to law enforcement, mandating the interview, many would assume only the state would use a forensic interview expert to explain the child’s statements, body language, and more. But defense counsel can also hire forensic interview expert witnesses. When a forensic interview occurs in a child-victim case, it is imperative for defense counsel to meet with their own forensic interview expert in order to determine if the original forensic interview was faulty.

What Could Ruin the Reliability of a Forensic Interview?

There could be various factors affecting the reliability of the original forensic interview, like:

  • The length of questioning
  • The body language of the interviewer
  • The way the interviewer set up the interview room
  • Whether the interviewer used leading or suggestive questions
  • The way the interviewer rewards and does not reward certain answers from the child being interviewed
  • The number of previous interviews undergone by the child
  • The tone of voice and language choice used by the interviewer
  • Whether props were used during questioning
  • Who is in the interview room with the child
  • Whether the interviewer repeats certain questions or statements

Essentially, the defense’s forensic interview expert could explain why some statements made in the original forensic interview might be untrue due to any combination of the listed factors and more. Whenever a forensic interviewer does not comply and rigidly follow the forensic interview guidelines laid out to ensure reliable and credible interview answers, a forensic interview expert witness could outline such deviances as reasons for certain answers from the child interviewed.

Do They Only Examine Forensic Interviews?

That’s not all. While forensic interview experts can dissect the forensic interviews of children, they can also help in a myriad of other ways, such as:

  • Reviewing police records and the allegation process to see if there were multiple interviews and how these interviews could lead to specific allegations made by the child.
  • Helping to draft cross-examination questions for the prosecution’s witnesses who might testify as to the child’s allegations.
  • Helping to identify the root cause of false allegations made.
  • Ensuring that any contact with the child victim by defense counsel comports with the guidelines necessary to remain completely objective, empathetic, and neutral in questioning.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime where a forensic interview was conducted with a child witness, ensure you hire a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who knows how to challenge the interview. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience dealing with forensic interviews and will consult with knowledgeable expert witnesses in the field so that you know every defense possible. Call us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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