Domestic Violence situations are difficult even in the best of circumstances. But those cases can be trying when they involve kids who have witnessed violence among the adults in their lives. Learning how to deal with those children in such a way as to not further traumatize them, and yet still serve the needs of justice is vital.
Join this recorded webinar as Hilary Weinberg and Patrick Beumler discuss the general considerations for prosecutors to assure that domestic violence cases filed utilizing children as witnesses have that reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Hilary/Patrick, you just presented about engaging children as witnesses in domestic violence cases, focused however from the Law Enforcement point of view. This time you’re talking about DV cases – but from the Prosecutor’s point of view. Does someone need to have attended your previous presentation in order to understand this one? How will this presentation build on your last webinar?
Hilary Weinberg: I don’t think people need to have listened to the previous webinar to join this one. We are still discussing investigations and can do a few minutes of a recap to get new listeners up to speed.
JCH: You’ve dealt with countless cases of domestic violence where children were witnesses. What do you think the most important thing is for prosecutors to remember when they’re engaging with these victim/witnesses?
Hilary Weinberg: You need to accept that your evidence is what it is. Children are children and can be easily influenced by the people in their lives most so it’s important to be patient and develop a rapport with them.
Children are often a wealth of information and often times a jury may trust a child
because the child is likely not skilled enough to manipulate.
With some training, practice and prep work, a child witness may be very beneficial to a case.
JCH: What are the biggest misconceptions prosecutors might have about engaging with child witnesses of domestic violence situations?
Hilary Weinberg: Sometimes prosecutors are afraid to call children in their cases because they are not comfortable talking to them. Children are often a wealth of information and often times a jury may trust a child because the child is likely not skilled enough to manipulate. With some training, practice and prep work, a child witness may be very beneficial to a case.
JCH: How did you develop your philosophy or approach to dealing with child witnesses?
Hilary Weinberg: Most of my training was on the job. I had trials where kids were witnesses so I spoke to other more experienced attorneys about how to prep them, and as I continued to prosecute these cases, I was able to take advantage of Basic and Advanced forensic interview training that even more enhanced my ability to work with children who may need to go to court. I have also tried several cases involving vulnerable adult witnesses which has also given me similar experiences. These kinds of witnesses require preparation and rapport, and I always stress that you should never meet these witnesses for the first time when you are about to put them on the stand.
Click Here to Watch “Children as Witnesses in Domestic Violence Cases: Prosecutorial Considerations“