Reliability of Assault Victim’s Accounts

The Reliability of Assault Victims’ Immediate Accounts: Evidence from Trauma Studies by Melissa Hamilton (Stanford Law & Policy Review, forthcoming) discusses the excited utterance, present sense exception, and statements about mental and medical conditions exceptions to the hearsay rule when the witness has been a victim of interpersonal violence.  “[M]uch 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 to them. 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 in the near term holistic and reliable reports. On the other hand, empirical studies reject the notion that it takes more than a blink of an eye to fabricate a story.”

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