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The reliability of assault victims' immediate accounts: evidence from trauma studies

Hamilton, Melissa (2015) The reliability of assault victims' immediate accounts: evidence from trauma studies Stanford Law & Policy Review, 26 (1). pp. 269-306.

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The admission of hearsay qualifying as an excited utterance, present sense impression, or statement about mental and bodily conditions is an exception to the general rule of inadmissibility for hearsay statements. Evidence scholars explain these exceptions as being presumably reliable statements as they are generally contemporaneous with an event at issue such that faults with memory and time to lie are remedied. These three exceptions have been particularly depended upon in cases of interpersonal violence in which victims are considered to honestly complain during the occurrence of the assault and in its immediate aftermath. Nonetheless, much recent research in interdisciplinary circles highlights that the impact of trauma has varied consequences upon subjects' abilities to accurately and fully articulate what just transpired. Concurrent neurophysiological reactions to traumatic stress can mediate, alter, or entirely thwart one's capacity to conceptualize internally, and to clearly verbalize externally, the violent attack. Thus, unlike the hearsay exceptions' presumption of accuracy, a surfeit of scientific knowledge now shows that violence victims may-or may not-issue holistic and reliable reports in the near term. On the other hand, empirical studies reject the notion that it takes more than a blink of an eye to fabricate a story. Evidence law is often intransigent in its reliance upon folk psychological assumptions about human behavior. Yet with legal scholars and practitioners increasingly embracing the benefits that scientific knowledge can bring to the law, the time may be ripe to reconsider these three hearsay exceptions. In light of recent studies drawing from neurology, physiology, and psychology principles and research designs in trauma studies, the goal of evidence law in terms of preventing unreliable testimony can only benefit thereby.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
Date : April 2015
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright 2015 Stanford Law School
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 20 Sep 2017 12:47
Last Modified : 20 Sep 2017 12:47

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