Thursday, May 5, 2005

Six-year-old competent to testify about abuse when he was three and four

[CASE] Division 2 discusses in some detail the grounds for finding a six-year-old competent to testify in a sexual abuse case against the boy's babysitter. State v. Yackley, 2005 WL 1023146 (Wash. App. May 3, 2005) (unpublished), Find Result - 2005 WL 1023146.

A word on unpublished decisions...
Unpublished opinions can't be cited as authority (see RAP 10.4(h)). When deciding whether to publish, the panel of judges considers

(1) Whether the decision determines an unsettled or new question of law or constitutional principle; (2) Whether the decision modifies, clarifies or reverses an established principle of law; (3) Whether a decision is of general public interest or importance; or (4) Whether a case is in conflict with a prior opinion of the Court of Appeals.
RAP 12.3(d).

So why bother looking at them?

I think this case is a good illustration. The judge (C.C. Bridgewater) gives a lot of factual detail from the record -- for instance, where the boy was living, what he told his mother, his father, and investigators, and what he said at the hearing to determine whether he was competent to testify. Reading those factual details can help you develop a sense of "real life" investigations. The opinion also analyzes the law, of course, and applies it to the specific facts -- so you can develop your judgment about when, for example, a child will be deemed competent to testify, when child hearsay is admissible, and so on.

... So I sometimes note unpublished decisions here. When I have a long list of cases to skim and time is short, I also skip past some unpublished decisions. After all, they aren't as important as published decisions.

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