Can an expert testify that a child is telling the truth?
Many cases involving child abuse have expert witnesses involved. Child abuse and sexual assault cases have medical experts, therapists, or counselors who are called to testify. However, Texas law limits the ability of experts to tell a judge or jury that a child is honest.
Texas law prohibits an expert to testify or make a direct comment as to whether the child’s statements are truthful. In other words, the expert cannot specifically say “yes, the child is telling the truth” or “the child is lying”. Direct comments about the truthfulness of the statement are not allowed.
However, the expert may testify to certain behaviors of the child that may lead the court to believe that the child has been coached or manipulated to tell a certain story about the abuse.
When a child testifies to the abuse, experts are trained to detect certain indicators that can help the expert determine if a child is not telling the truth or exaggerating. Texas courts have ruled that testifying about these indicators does not constitute a direct comment about the truthfulness of the child’s statement. Therefore, the expert can testify about these indicators and how they can show that the child’s story may have been manipulated or exaggerated but cannot go any further than that.