Child abuse is a pervasive problem in the United States. Often, the abused child’s word is the only evidence to prove the abuse in court. For this reason, the child’s testimony is critical. Testifying can pose a challenge for the abused child who must face her abuser in the courtroom, especially if that abuser personally questions her.
The United States Supreme Court has recognized the legitimate and strong interest the state has in protecting the psychological and physical well-being of children. When a child will face significant trauma and cannot reasonably communicate in the courtroom, the child can be questioned outside the presence of the defendant through alternative contemporaneous methods such as closed-circuit television (“CCTV”). Using closed-circuit television implicates the right to confrontation, which guarantees the opportunity for a defendant to confront his accuser. Despite this guarantee, the court may limit the face-to-face exposure for the child’s protection when the child would face a significant level of trauma. Many states have codified the use of closed-circuit television in CCTV statutes. A court may also sua-sponte impose limits on a self-represented defendant’s ability to personally question child witnesses. Such limits instead require standby counsel to conduct the questioning, which courts have held does not violate the right to self-representation.
This Comment explores the permissible limitations of the right to confrontation and self-representation. Particularly, it looks at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision Commonwealth v. Tighe and argues the court misclassified the above-mentioned rights. Based on the Fourth Circuit decision in Fields v. Murray, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should have classified these rights as distinct which would require different levels of necessity to limit. This Comment ultimately proposes a prohibition against personal cross-examination by pro se defendants and the passing of a pro se provision to the CCTV statute.
Standing By to Protect Child Abuse Victims: Utilizing Standby Counsel in Lieu of Personal Cross-Examination,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: https://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlr/vol126/iss1/10
Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Evidence Commons, Family Law Commons, Law and Society Commons, Legal Writing and Research Commons, Legislation Commons, Litigation Commons, State and Local Government Law Commons, Supreme Court of the United States Commons