2015.50: Possibly the Worst Scaled Question Ever

From a sexual-assault appeal I’m working on:

I want to ask everybody on the panel the following question: How likely do you think a child would be to lie about being sexually abused? One is very likely; two, likely; three, unlikely; four, very unlikely.

As a criminal-defense lawyer who has represented people who have been falsely accused of sexually abusing children, my answer is “four, very unlikely.” But I interpret the question to mean, “any given child.” And that’s the truth: any given child will most likely not lie about being sexually abused—will never have the opportunity or the motivation. But it just takes one false accusation to ruin a guy’s whole day. ((If I read the question to mean “how likely is it that some child somewhere will lie at some time about being sexually abused,” my answer would be “one, very likely; in fact, inevitable.” And you wouldn’t know how I was interpreting your stupid fucking question.))

Now, if I, despite being more skeptical about allegations of sexual abuse than the vast majority of people, would be likely answer at the conservative conviction-friendly end of your scale, how likely is it that you’ll get any meaningful information from a jury panel?


What a waste of time. About par for the course for the State’s voir dire.

4 responses to “2015.50: Possibly the Worst Scaled Question Ever”

  1. Mark
    As we both know, If the prosecutors who are charged with doing Justice were really interested in doing Justice they might ask questions designed to find fair jurors. As the prosecutors who are charged with doing Justice are more interested in convictions than justice, they ask questions designed to seek unfair jurors or to taint prospective jurors.

    The criminal Justice system Is more charade than anything else; often no more than an evil little puppet show.
    Robb Fickman

    • I’ve got no issue with prosecutors asking questions in jury selection designed to seek unfair jurors or taint prospective jurors—I’m doing the same thing, and I get to go last. My issue with this question is that it wastes everyone’s time.

  2. I think there is a threshold determined by age and experience. Under a certain age, I would guess quite unlikely. Above a certain age, with more exposure to peers and educators, “likely” due to the influences outside the home. But, reporting abuse can be a good thing if an offense actually occurred, or a toboggan ride to hell on greased rails for someone falsely accused.

    • Depends on how young you are talking. I have 6 children, 1 of which is 3.5, and depending on how I ask her questions, I could easily get her to say something along the lines of a teacher touching her “wrong” – as I could have with any child of mine at that age.

      From mid-toddler through late elementary school, a child will tell a person of power (teacher, parent, coach, COP,(!) DA(!)) whatever they think they want to hear.

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