The judicial system is struggling to accommodate the special needs of a rapidly growing number of child witnesses in its courtrooms. An increasingly popular approach to obtaining children's testimony is the use of "shielding methods," which allow child witnesses to testify outside the presence of the defendant. When courts use these methods, the judicial system's obligation to protect children arguably conflicts with its duty to ensure criminal defendants' right to confront their accusers as mandated by the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. This Note examines the most recent development in child witness shielding, the Uniform Child Witness Testimony by Alternative Methods Act, drafted in 2002 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. This Note argues that states should not enact the proposed Act for several reasons. The Act violates the Federal Confrontation Clause as well as many state constitutions. Additionally, empirical evidence reveals harmful effects of shielded testimony not only on criminal defendants, but. also on the child witnesses themselves and on the judicial system as a whole. This Note concludes that pretrial education and counseling would better serve child witnesses without sacrificing defendants' constitutional rights.
Katherine W. Grearson, Proposed Uniform Child Witness Testimony Act: An Impermissible Abridgement of Criminal Defendants' Rights, 45 B.C.L. Rev. 467 (2004), http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol45/iss2/5