Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence: Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews

Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-06-27
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence: Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews
Unit 2 Transcript: Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence: Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews
Unit 3 Workbook: Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence: Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews
Unit 4 Recording: Approaching Pretrial Interviews and Trial Testimony with Confidence: Assessing and Defending Forensic Interviews

Challenges may arise when the victim or witness to a case is a child who may not be able to accurately articulate what they experienced or was exposed to. The value of forensic interviewers is critical so accurate information can be gathered for investigation and conveyed during the court proceedings to get the best legal outcomes and ensure justice is served. This session provides guidelines for forensic interviewers to prepare for their court dates so they can present information gathered through forensic interviews effectively during their testimony.

Back on the Justice Clearinghouse to share her expertise is Wendy Dutton. She has been a forensic interviewer for the past 31 years and has conducted more than 12,000 forensic interviews and testified over 700 times as an expert witness in child abuse cases. She’s also the author of a treatment workbook for sexually abused children and several articles on the topic.

Specifics of her presentation include:

  • Building an offensive plan before testifying through…
    • A comprehensive curriculum vitae that contains all relevant education and experience to establish your credibility as a forensic interviewer.
    • Referencing pertinent research, critical concepts to forensic interviews and the approaches and techniques you’ve utilized during the forensic interview.
    • Preparation for the pre-trial interview by reviewing your notes and the interview and its transcript to ensure accuracy and correct if necessary.
  • Recognizing that there’s no perfect interview and conducting an assessment that identifies your interview’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • The importance of classifying and coding questions into whether it is preferred or problematic, an overview of the question types that fall into each category, a sample coding tally sheet, and managing problematic questions and responses.
  • Defending your interview by…
    • Researching the defense expert enlisted to critique your interview and their works.
    • Reviewing the defense expert’s report on your interview, and their pre-trial interview with the prosecutor.
    • Understanding the defense attorney’s goals and the tactics they may engage in.
    • Being aware of your rights as a professional witness as it relates to scheduling the interview, access to transcripts, and dealing with defense’s potentially dirty tactics.
    • Acquainting with the dos and don’ts in interviews to ensure that only the most truthful, accurate, and relevant information are conveyed.
    • Familiarizing with common trick questions employed by the defense and recommended verbatim responses to these.
  • Tips on testifying on the stand and during cross-examination to…
    • Set expectations on how defense attorneys are likely to conduct themselves in court.
    • Ensure that the trier of fact understands your work and its value.
    • Effectively communicate your expertise and deal with attempts at challenging it.
    • Navigate defense tactics to mislead you, the judge, or the jury.
    • Ensure that the child does not look inconsistent or not credible by admitting to your mistakes during the forensic interview.
    • Create a great first impression, exude confidence on the stand, and manage stress.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Defense raising questions about your personal life and potential conflict of interest.
  • How defense tends to dissect the forensic interview for weaknesses.
  • Taking notes during the forensic interview.
  • Defending recantations.
  • Obligations of a forensic interviewer after ending pre-trial interviews.
  • Defense using opposing research to nullify the ones you provided.
  • Examples of different types of forensic interview questions.
  • Dealing with difficult judges.


Click here to view and register for other upcoming Prosecutorial/Legal webinars on the JCH Platform 



Audience Comments

  • “Great Information, especially the suggestion of creating a training profile/testifying history to present to the defense.”
  • “Best presenter I’ve experienced. Straight to the point with examples.”
  • “The session was extremely informative.”
  • “This was excellent. I have a particular Defense Attorney who is very nasty every time I testify and this gave me some tools on how to handle that.”
  • “The trainer was very knowledgeable and gave a lot of great points about court etiquette and how to answer questions on the witness stand.”



Additional Resources
17 days ago
After the Webinar: Approaching Pre-Trial Interviews and Trial Testimony. Q&A with Dr. Wendy Dutton
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