New publication in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. A collaboration between Dr. Alexander and her Auburn University colleagues.
Abstract: A growing body of evidence suggests that jurors place greater weight on DNA or other types of forensic evidence than non-forensic evidence (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2009). For cases involving child sexual abuse, certain types of evidence, including forensic medical evidence, may be viewed as more important or indicative of abuse than other types of evidence, such as victim statements or disclosure. The present study evaluated perceptions of juvenile offenders and victim credibility across four vignettes that systematically manipulated variables related to victim age and physical indicators of abuse. A sample of 636 participants read vignettes and answered questions pertaining to the vignette. Participants also provided demographic information and responded to a series of items assessing participants' judicial decision-making strategies and outcomes. Broadly, the presence of medical evidence significantly influenced participants' decision-making across a variety of variables, including verdict outcome, verdict confidence, confidence that the victim was truthful, and determinations involving sex offender registration and notification requirements. The influence of medical evidence and victim age on perceptions and sentencing of juvenile sex offenders across these and additional outcome variables will be discussed.