To determine the reliability of a child's out-of-court statements for purposes of Mo. Rev. Stat. § 491.075, Missouri courts look to the totality of the circumstances and consider the following non-exclusive list of factors: (1) spontaneity and consistent repetition; (2) the mental state of the declarant; (3) lack of motive to fabricate; and (4) knowledge of subject matter unexpected of a child of similar age. Other important factors include the lapse of time between when the acts occurred and when the victim reported them and the technique employed by the interviewer.
The victim was 12 years old at the time of the crimes and was living with defendant. The victim and defendant also lived with the victim's brother, who was then eight years of age and the victim's mother. The parties also lived with defendant's wife and defendant's infant son. Defendant began sexually abusing the victim in Arkansas when she was nine years old. The victim testified that defendant touched her, raped her, and forced her to perform oral sex. On one occasion when the families were living in Arkansas, the victim's brother walked into the living room and saw defendant laying on top of and humping the victim with his pants down. Defendant argued that the brother's deposition testimony was unreliable and should not have been admitted because his defense counsel was not trained to interview children. Defendant also argued that the brother's statements were unreliable.
Is a 12-year old's deposition testimony reliable enough to be admitted in court?
The court upheld the decision because the brother's deposition testimony was consistent with both his videotaped interview, which was introduced into evidence, and his in-court testimony. Although the testimony was not spontaneous, it was consistent with the spontaneous statements on the videotaped interview.