Trial Procedures for Videotaped Child Interviews

In State v. Anderson, 413 S.C. 212, 776 S.E.2d 76 (2015), the South Carolina Supreme Court settled on procedures for admitting, during jury trials, the videotaped child interview conducted as part of the investigation into child sex abuse allegations.  First, outside the presence of the jurors, the trial judge determines whether the interview satisfies the requirements of S.C. Code § 17–23–175 and, therefore, is admissible.  During this stage, the background and qualifications of the interviewer are relevant to the judge’s determination.  Second, if the trial judge determines the interview is admissible, then the interviewer is called as a witness in front of the jurors to lay the foundation for introduction of the videotaped interview.  In front of the jurors, “[t]here is to be no testimony to such things as techniques, of the instruction to the interview subject of the importance of telling the truth, or that the purpose of the interview is to allow law enforcement to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.”  These procedures are intended to prevent impermissible bolstering of the child’s credibility.

Anderson also approved the procedure followed in State v. Brown, 411 S.C. 332, 768 S.E.2d 246 (Ct. App. 2015) where a “blind expert” that did not participate in the prosecution of the case is called to testify about the general characteristics of child sexual abuse.

To be clear, both the child interviewer and the “blind expert” typically work for a children’s advocacy center, which is part of the prosecution team.  In Charles Grose’s experience, however, the Anderson and Brown procedures, combined with skillful cross-examinations, reduce the dangers of unfair prejudice that can result from these prosecution witnesses.

Please click these links to read State v. Anderson and State v. Brown.