16 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 36: 1 2016]
Texas,184 and Utah185) have had as many as six separate appeals on this issue without creating a
Perhaps the most intriguing state case law comes from those states in which the victim was
allowed to sit on the lap of his or her support person while testifying. In Holmes v. United States,
the defendant was sentenced to death for the brutal rape of a nine-year-old female.186 During her
testimony, the child was permitted to sit on her mother’s lap while she testified.187 The defendant
argued that the testimony should not have been admitted.188 The Court held that permitting the
child to sit on her mother’s lap allowed ease of testimony under trying circumstances, was
humanitarian, and praiseworthy in serving the interests of justice.189
F. Use of Anatomical Dolls and Diagrams
Anatomical dolls are often used during interviews of potential child victims of abuse. They
are especially helpful for younger children who have formed a vocabulary that may not be well
understood by the interviewer.190 The controversy over the use of these dolls during interviews
and in the courtroom is grounded in their potential for suggestibility or fantasy play that does not
reflect accurately the event in question.191 A national survey of prosecutors found that anatomically
correct dolls are sometimes used at trial to elicit child testimony.192 However, results have been
mixed, generally suggesting that anatomical dolls and diagrams should be cautiously used with
children under the age of five, as they might not understand the true nature of the dolls.193 In a
field study of over 100 children who were suspected victims of child abuse, the use of dolls was
not related to a greater number of details given about the incident in question.194 The authors also
found that younger children played with the dolls in a way suggesting that the children did not
know the purpose of the dolls, acting as if the dolls were toys for play.195 Fantasy play with
anatomical dolls could lead to an increase in false memories of the abuse incident or decreased
credibility for the child during trial.196 Overall, similar results have been supported in other
184In re D. T.C., 30 S. W.3d 43 (Tex. Ct. App. 2000); Mosby v. State, 703 S.W.2d 714 (Tex. Ct. App. 1985); Rodgers
v. State, 17 S.W. 1077 (Tex. Ct. App. 1891).
185State v. Cardell, 982 P.2d 79 (Utah 1999); State v. Harrison, 24 P.3d 936 (Utah 2001); State v. Keeley, 328 P.2d
724 (Utah 1958).
186Holmes v. United States, 171 F.2d 1022 (D.C. Cir. 1948).
187Id. at 1023.
189Id. Three other states have allowed for young children to testify while sitting on the lap of their support person: In
Georgia, a seven-year old victim was allowed to sit on her mother’s lap while testifying. Murchison v. State, 500
S.E.2d 651, 652 (Ga. Ct. App. 1998). In West Virginia, a six-year-old victim was permitted to testify while sitting on
the lap of her foster mother. State v. Jones, 362 S.E.2d 330, 332 (W. Va. 1987). In Wisconsin, a three-year-old victim
was allowed to testify while sitting on the lap of her grandmother. State v. Shanks, 644 N.W.2d 275, 279 (Wis. Ct.
190CECI & BRUCK, supra note 6, at 161.
191HALL & SALES, supra note 15, at 27.
192Goodman et al., supra note 95, at 267-68.
193Debra Ann Poole & Maggie Bruck, Divining Testimony? The Impact of Interviewing Props on Children’s Reports
of Touching, 32 DEV. REV. 165, 168 (2012).
194Karen L. Thierry et al., Developmental Differences in the Function and Use of Anatomical Dolls During Interviews
with Alleged Sexual Abuse Victims, 73 J. OF CONSULTING AND CLINICAL PSYCHOL., 1125, 1132(2005).
196Id. at 1132-33.