Judicial Decision-Making and Juvenile Offenders: Effects of Medical Evidence and Victim Age

John Michael Falligant, Rebecca Fix, Apryl A. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of evidence suggests that jurors place greater weight on DNA or other types of forensic evidence than non-forensic evidence (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2009). For cases involving child sexual abuse, certain types of evidence, including forensic medical evidence, may be viewed as more important or indicative of abuse than other types of evidence, such as victim statements or disclosure. The present study evaluated perceptions of juvenile offenders and victim credibility across four vignettes that systematically manipulated variables related to victim age and physical indicators of abuse. A sample of 636 participants read vignettes and answered questions pertaining to the vignette. Participants also provided demographic information and responded to a series of items assessing participants’ judicial decision-making strategies and outcomes. Broadly, the presence of medical evidence significantly influenced participants’ decision-making across a variety of variables, including verdict outcome, verdict confidence, confidence that the victim was truthful, and determinations involving sex offender registration and notification requirements. The influence of medical evidence and victim age on perceptions and sentencing of juvenile sex offenders across these and additional outcome variables will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-406
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • bias
  • child sexual abuse
  • children
  • decision-making
  • forensic evidence
  • heuristics
  • juveniles
  • victims

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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