SAMPLE AFFIDAVIT ON ADVERSE EVALUATION|
Affidavit of Ralph C. Underwager
and Hollida Wakefield
Before me, the undersigned authority, on this day personally appeared
Ralph C. Underwager and Hollida Wakefield, known to me to be the persons
whose names are subscribed to the following instrument, and having been
duly sworn, upon their oaths, depose and state as follows:
I. We have prepared this affidavit at the request of Jane Doe, attorney
for John Roe. The issue is the importance of an adverse psychological evaluation
of the children alleged to have been abused.
II. (Updated biographical information added as basis for expertise and opinions.
Current research is also added where relevant.)
IV. We have regularly published articles and books and given workshops and
presentations at professional conferences on the topics of sexuality, psychology
and law, interviewing child witnesses, sexual abuse allegations, and other
professional issues. The curriculum vitae for each of us is attached which
lists our presentations, papers, and books.
V. We have regularly conducted psychological evaluations of persons accused
of criminal offenses and we have also interviewed and/or evaluated many
child witnesses. Trial courts in over 25 states have ordered that we be
permitted to interview the child witness to conduct an adverse psychological
VI. The Minnesota Appellate Court upheld the discretion and appropriateness
of the trial judge's order that Dr. Underwager conduct a psychological evaluation
of two child witnesses (Minnesota vs. Cain, C4-88-665). The Montana
Supreme Court ruled that it was proper for the trial judge to order a psychological
evaluation of the complaining witness by Dr. Underwager (Montana vs.
Malee, Cause no. DC-87-140). The Supreme Court of Louisiana ordered
that Dr. Underwager be permitted to examine the child witness in order for
the defendant to have the opportunity to adequately defend himself at his
trial (Louisiana vs. Hero, 620 So.2d 857 (La. 1993)).
VII. We have reviewed documents pertaining to the allegations concerning
John Roe. Based upon our knowledge, training, and experience, we conclude
it is essential to the welfare of the children and the ability of the defendant
to pursue an adequate defense and for the children to be effectively cross
examined that there be an adverse psychological examination of the children
ordered by the court.
VIII. A central factor in providing testimony in a court of law relating
to legally relevant behavior is the nature and role of human memory. Interrogation
of a child and the exercise of adult social influence on a child can result
in the reconstruction of a memory that may be subjectively real but is not
accurate. For a summary of the research on human memory and the scientific
data on memory and the impact of suggestion and misinformation, see our
book, Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse (1988). Further treatments
of children's memory are found in Ceci, Toglia, and Ross, Children's
Eyewitness Memory (1987); in Ceci, Ross, and Toglia, Perspectives
on Children's Testimony (1989); in a book published by the American
Psychological Association and edited by John Doris titled The Suggestibility
of Children's Recollections (1991), and in a review article by Ceci
and Bruck (Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 403-439.
IX. Many interviews, particularly of young children, are so leading and
suggestive that the information obtained is simply not reliable. Therefore,
even when there are videotapes of prior interviews, a new interview can
be helpful in determining what may have actually happened. The scientific
research evidence shows that repeated questions are highly coercive and
result in significant error introduced into accounts. Direct and specific
questions also have been shown to produced marked levels of error. The argument
that if a child does not tell about abuse, then it is proper to move to
direct, leading, or suggestive questioning is fallacious. It presumes that
the interrogator has some special knowledge that abuse actually occurred
even if the child is denying it. If that is done, the only thing that can
come out of such a procedure is the bias and prior assumptions of the interrogator.
Other leading and suggestive techniques (i. e., dolls, puppets, drawings,
relaxation techniques, naming body parts) are known to have no evidence
to support their efficacy or utility in producing accurate information but,
instead, are known to lead to serious, often unrecognized, errors. A psychological
evaluation can provide information relative to the adult behaviors toward
a child that may have been suggestive or coercive and therefore of interest
and assistance to the finder of fact in weighing information.
X. Young children can provide forensically useful information, but adults
have to know how to let them produce it. However, although though young
children can provide accurate information, they recall less than do adults.
But the less information the child gives in free recall, the sooner the
interviewer may start using leading, direct, and/or specific questions,
which can influence the child and distort the story. Also, young children
may perceive the interview task differently from adults and try to tell
the interviewer what they believe the interviewer wants them to say. They
may answer questions they do not understand and about which they have no
information. Children do not know what they do not know. Therefore, they
may often answer questions that are bizarre and unanswerable but do so with
confidence and aplomb. A psychological evaluation can provide information
in this area.
XII. A psychological evaluation can therefore provide assistance and information
to the finder of fact to assist in weighing the evidence. Research shows
this scientific information is not known to the general public, not understood
by the general public, and is available to the finder of fact only through
expert witness. The research evidence is clear and persuasive to support
the summary statement that the younger the child, the more suggestible the
child to adult social influence. Also the younger the child, the more likely
adults are to behave in ways that are coercive and suggestive.
XIII. If a child is led by adults, wittingly or unwittingly, to be involved
in the development of a false allegation of sexual abuse, this is not a
benign or innocuous experience for the child. It is destructive of the child's
ability to distinguish between reality and unreality and runs the risk of
training the child to be psychotic. The research evidence strongly suggests
that the effect on a child of being involved by adults in a false allegation
of sexual abuse is devastating to the child. The long term effects include
depression, anxiety, fear, loss of self-esteem and learning to be a victim.
It may also run the risk of training a child to be psychotic if the child
is coerced into extreme, bizarre, and highly improbable accounts.
XIV. An adverse medical psychological examination of the child done by a
psychologist knowledgeable about the research evidence and skilled in dealing
with children and adults can provide information in both the area of the
defendant's capacity to have an adequate defense and the issue of the welfare
and best course for the child. If the defense is that the abuse did not
happen, it is important to the child to have an understanding of how a child
may say things happened if they did not happen. If there is no opportunity
to gain information about a child's level of competence and suggestibility,
or to gain more understanding of adult behaviors toward the child, the defense
is limited to attempting to discredit a child. This may be difficult and
stressful for all participants, including the children, and also may alienate
XV. A competent psychological evaluation of a child is necessary to determine
the individual developmental level of the alleged child victim and the impact
of that level of capacity on the allegations and the competency of a child.
While the determination of competency of a child is a judicial decision,
a psychological evaluation will provide useful and significant information
to the process of a judicial determination of the level of competence of
a given child.
We declare the foregoing is true and correct.
XVI. There is no scientific data suggesting that an adverse psychological
evaluation is traumatic for a child. Such claims are often made in opposition
to a request for an adverse psychological evaluation but they are without
foundation and are purely speculative. A competent psychologist is trained
to provide an empathic, warm, and accepting climate and friendly relationship
in conducting assessments. It would be unprofessional, even unethical behavior
for a psychologist to be hostile, mean, demanding, and attacking a child.
Also it would be defeating the purpose of permitting a child to produce
the most reliable information possible relevant to the questions and considerations
presented above. It is also not necessary to have other persons present
for an evaluation. The best information will come from a competent psychologist
assessing and evaluating a child without the presence of others. Requiring
other people to be present may communicate a negative approach to the evaluation
to the child. It will also be a compounding factor in the evaluation and
may make it less likely to get the best information and assessment possible.
In our experience of evaluating hundreds of children, there has not been
a single instance in which a child has been negatively affected by the evaluation.
The benefit to the child in making information available that may well increase
the accuracy of any decisions to be made or actions to be taken far outweighs
the slight risk of any discomfort or traumatic impact.
XVII. An adverse psychological evaluation will be videotaped or at least
audiotaped. This more complete documentation makes evident any adult behaviors
toward the child that may be problematical and also makes it more clear
what the child's actual behavior is. There is now general agreement that
videotaping interviews of children is essential and necessary in order to
have full information and adequate documentation about the process. The
California Attorney General's Office (1994) conducted a two year study of
the effects of videotaping interviews and finds there is no damage but very
significant benefit and strongly recommends all interviews be videotaped.
There are no good reasons for not fully recording and documenting all interviews
with children. There are only bad reasons for not videotaping or audiotaping
all interviews involving children.
Further your affiants saith not.
Executed this ___ day of_______, 19___, in Northfield, Minnesota.
Hollida Wakefield, M.A.
|| Ralph Underwager, Ph.D.
Subscribed and sworn to before me by Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager
on this ___ day of ________, 19___ to certify which witness my hand and
seal of office.