Gunther Fiek

Innocent Victim of Mass Hysteria

Affidavit of Dr. Maggie Bruck

Dr. Maggie Bruck’s Affidavit

[The names of the children have been changed.]

I am a Professor in the
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and
Behavioral Science, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in
Baltimore, MD.  I specialize in research in the fields of cognitive and
developmental psychology. My particular research examines autobiographical
memory with a special focus on the capabilities of young children. Currently,
my major research focus is on the autobiographical memory and suggestibility of
normally developing children and of children with developmental disabilities.

I have taught courses on these
and other related subjects to undergraduate students, graduate students
(Ph.D.), and psychiatry residents.

I have extensive experience
reviewing my peers’ scientific contributions by serving as a member on: (i)
national grant review panels in both Canada and the United States;  (ii)
scientific meeting review boards; (iii) advisory committees; and (iv) editorial
boards of scientific peer-reviewed journals.

I have received almost two dozen
research grants in both the United States and Canada during the last 20 years. 
I have published more than 70 articles in peer-reviewed publications, 20 book
chapters, and I have co-authored with Stephen Ceci, Ph.D., Jeopardy in the
Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony
, American
Psychological Association: Washington, D.C. (1995).  We were awarded the
William James Prize for excellence in psychology for Jeopardy in the
.  Dr. Ceci and I also won the Robert Chin Memorial Award for the
most outstanding article on child abuse in 1994 for our article “The
Suggestibility of Child Witnesses: A Historical Review and Synthesis”
(published in Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-439, 1993). I have
also presented more than 40 peer-reviewed papers at professional conferences
and given more than 50 invited addresses. I have also presented material on
children’s memory and suggestibility to professional audiences of judges,
attorneys, and professionals who interview children in the United States,
Canada, and Australia.

I have reviewed the materials of
a number of actual cases of alleged sexual abuse of children, either in the
capacity of an expert witness/consultant for the defense and for the
prosecution and also as an author of a number of affidavits.  In total, I have
been a consultant or expert witness for approximately 50 cases in the past 12
years. My courtroom experience as an expert at both trials and hearings is
listed in my Curriculum Vitae, which is attached to this document as Appendix

I have been asked by Gunther Fiek
to provide an expert opinion on the following issues:

1. To assess the suggestiveness
and interview bias in interviews two disclosing children and one non-disclosing

2.  The necessity of having the
jurors view these videotapes to understand how these children acted and how
their interrogators acted during the interview.

3. The accuracy of the expert
witnesses testimony about the suggestibility, reliability and accuracy of
children’s testimony.


My opinion is based upon almost
20 years of scientific study on these issues.   They have been admitted as
testimony in appellate, criminal, civil, and family courts in the United
States.  Furthermore, as I review the facts of this case including an analysis
of the interviews, it is clear that the scientific literature is highly
pertinent to the analysis of the facts and the children’s testimony.

Section A:  Basic Scientific Principles

 I now outline general scientific
principles that are pertinent to an analysis of the case


1. When children are questioned by a biased
interviewer and the interview contains suggestive elements, there is a high
degree of risk that these circumstances can taint the child’s report, rendering
it unreliable.

Interview Bias. The
suggestiveness (and thus the risk of eliciting false information) of an
interview is indexed by how interviewer bias plays out during the target
interview, as well as in all previous interviews. Interviewer bias
characterizes interviewers who hold a priori beliefs about the
occurrence of certain events and, as a result, conduct their interviews so as
to obtain confirmatory evidence for these beliefs without considering plausible
alternative hypotheses. When children provide such interviewers with
inconsistent or bizarre evidence, it is either ignored or interpreted within
the framework of the biased interviewer’s initial hypothesis.  Biased
interviewers often fail to investigate the accuracy of children’s claims
outside of the interview itself. Biased interviewers’ beliefs are transmitted
to the child through a range of suggestive interviewing techniques that are
associated with the elicitation of false reports.  Consequently, the child may
come to inaccurately report the belief of the interviewer rather than the
child’s own experience. The concept of a biased interviewer is not limited to
forensic interviewers but may also include therapists, teachers, and parents
(see Bruck, Ceci, & Principe, 2006 for a review).

Interviewing Techniques.
Interviewer bias influences the entire
architecture of interviews and is revealed through a variety of suggestive
interviewing techniques that go beyond the use of leading questions. 
Suggestive techniques include the use of repeated specific questions (some of
which may be leading) within and across interviews; repeated interviews
focusing on the alleged event; implicit or explicit threats, bribes, and
rewards (this includes telling the child that if they answer the questions, the
interview will be over); stereotype induction (e.g., telling children the
suspected perpetrator ‘‘does bad things’’); the use of anatomically detailed
dolls; the presence of more than one adult in the interview; the use of peer
pressure  Although each suggestive technique is associated with error, the risk
for false statements is greatly augmented when interviews contain a combination
of suggestive techniques, which increase the salience of the interviewer’s bias
(see Bruck, Ceci & Principe, 2006; Ceci & Bruck, 1995 for details and

Of particular importance for the
present case is the degree to which peers or use of peer pressure can taint
children’s reports.  The scientific literature clearly shows that children will
indeed falsely report experiencing an event either because they have been told:
“Your friends have told and now it’s your turn”; “Your friend said you were
there also”.  Children will also make a false report because they have
overheard or talked to friends about a rumor or about an experience that only
happened to their friend.  These laboratory findings have also been documented
with traumatic events.  For example, Pynoos and Nader (1989) studied people’s
recollections of a sniper attack aimed at  children on a school playground. 
Scores of children were pinned under gunfire, many were injured, and one child
and a passerby were killed.  Roughly, l0% of the student body was interviewed 6
to 16 weeks later. Some of these children were not at the school during the
shooting had "memories."  One girl initially said that she was at the
school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began when in fact she was
half a block away.  A boy, who had been away on vacation, said that he had been
on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the
shots, and then turned back.  One assumes that children heard about the event
from their peers who were present during the sniper attack and they
incorporated these reports into their own memories. 


2. The first interview with a
child provides the most reliable testimony.

When children are interviewed
over a period of time, the general rule is that the statements in the first
interview are the most important for determining reliability.  This is because,
compared to later interviews, there is less chance for forgetting, and there is
less time or opportunity for suggestive and other influences to taint
children’s reports.  Thus the children’s reports in the first rather than the
second or the last interview provide the most reliable evidence.

In documenting the
evolution of the children’s allegations, it is also important to determine if
the child’s first statement is spontaneous, unprompted, and made in the absence
of any previous suggestive elements, or if the child’s first statement is
associated with previous or concurrent suggestive interviewing techniques.  When
children make spontaneous or relatively unprompted statements in forensic
interviews, these are only reliable to the degree that there has been no
previous interviewing or questioning
.  If children, for example, are
suggestively questioned by their parents prior to the interview, then the
statements in the forensic interview are unreliable.  This is a stable finding
of many studies in the scientific literature.


3. Suggestive interviewing techniques can result
in false beliefs. 

One of the effects of suggestive
interviewing is that children may come to believe that they actually
experienced the suggested event. Thus asking children to tell the truth and to
tell only what happened to them and to promise to tell the truth  can be
fruitless (see Poole & Lindsay, 2001; Zaragoza et al., 2001) and will not
de-taint their reports. Similarly, children do not monitor many aspects of
interviews, specifically what another person suggested or said to them. Thus
asking children whether or not Mommy told them to say something or whether or
not Daddy told them bad things is not likely to result in accurate reports. 
Young children are generally incapable of accurately producing this information
(see Roberts, 2002 for a review).  Thus court-room cross examination of a child
who has made allegations as a result of suggestive interviewing will not
necessarily reveal what really happened.  This is because the child thinks that
they telling what really happened.


4. Children who make false allegations as a
result of suggestive interviews are not lying.

Such children are simply trying
to be compliant and to provide the interviewer with the information that is
wanted.  In this sense the child does not meet common definitions of lying that
include conscious “deception” for “gain”.   For these reasons, asking children
if they know the difference between a lie and the truth and to promise to tell
the truth does not prevent the negative effects of suggestibility.  A number of
studies have found that children’s performance on truth-lie tests has no
association with the accuracy of their later responses during an interview
about a past event.

5. Children who can differentiate reality from
fantasy are still suggestible.

Although numerous studies have
attempted to find an association between fantasy and suggestibility, no
significant relationship has been found.  Certainly by the age of 6 and 7 most
children can differentiate reality from fantasy, and yet the scientific
literature shows that suggestibility effects predominate through out the life


6. Children’s False Reports are Credible.

Some professionals state that
they can detect suggestion because children simply parrot the words of their
investigators.  However, evidence from the past decade, provides no support for
this assertion.  First, children’s false reports are not simply reflections or
monosyllabic responses to leading questions.  Under some conditions, their
answers go well beyond the suggestion and incorporate additional non-suggested
details and emotions (e.g., Bruck, Ceci, Francouer & Barr, 1995; Bruck,
Ceci & Hembrooke, 2002). In fact, children’s narratives of the false events
contain more embellishments (including descriptive and emotional terms) and
details than their narratives of the true events.  False narratives often
contain more spontaneous statements than the true narratives.  Although for the
most part, the details in false stories are realistic, they often contain more
bizarre details than true narratives (Bruck, Ceci & Hembrooke, 2002).

In addition, subjective ratings
of children’s reports after suggestive interviewing reveals that these children
appear highly credible to trained professionals in the fields of child
development, mental health, and forensics (e.g., Leichtman & Ceci, 1995;
Ceci et al., 1994a, 1994b); these professionals cannot reliably discriminate
between children whose reports are accurate from those whose reports are
inaccurate as the result of suggestive interviewing techniques. The children
who provided the false reports spoke sincerely and provided accounts laden with
emotion and perceptual details and used body language consistent with their

To summarize, there are no
scientifically acceptable markers for judging truthfulness of children’s
statements that have emerged in suggestive contexts. These findings show that
reliability and credibility are orthogonal dimensions. Accordingly, one cannot
use credibility to judge reliability (e.g., She looks so believable that she
could not have been coached).


Section B:  Application of Scientific Literature to the Present Case

1. The Quality (Suggestiveness) of the Interviews

I was given four interviews to
examine (Abner King; 2 with Alan Sherman; Joe Green).  Two of the children
(Abner and Joe) reported that the defendant had touched them.  Alan denied any
wrong doing.

Regardless of what the children
said, the interviews had a number of suggestive techniques and there is
interviewer bias.  Specifically, Abner and Joe were repeatedly asked the same
questions; they were asked leading questions.  Furthermore, both of these
children report similar events:  that the defendant touched them one
time; over their clothes; and they dated the timing of that incident
after it their courses had stopped.  Clearly Abner’s report must be false and
probably the same for Joe’s but this did not seem to have been investigated or
taken into account.  Furthermore, the fact that both children report being
touched only one time over their clothes raises many concerns of what they are
talking about.  The most obvious hypotheses are:  there was no sexual intent or
no touching and if there was touching it had to do with making sure the
children’s uniforms were proper.   It is also impossible to determine the
reliability of the reports without any knowledge of how these children were
questioned previously by their parents and other adults and what contacts and
interactions they had with their peers.  Joe’s interview indicates that
allegations of molestation were kept open when he states that after he told his
parents they told the rest of his family (TT 1943).

The two interviews of Alan
Sherman are important for many reasons.  First they highlight how
non-responsive children were interviewed.  In this case, Alan was interviewed
by two different interviewers on the same day.  The interviews were repetitive
which by itself is concerning because this could lead to false allegations. 
Specifically Monica Merrifield asks Alan repeated questions about bad touching;
he repeatedly denies that he was touched at taekwondo.  Then a second
interviewer (Finlayson) is sent in to repeat the process, but she goes even
further by telling him that his friend Campbell had been interviewed and that
Campbell said he had been touched and so had Alan.  Alan emphatically denied
these claims and still the interviewer continued to pressure him. 


2. Evidence to Present to the Jury

The defense should have shown the
videos of Alan and Abner to the jury in order to show how suggestive the
interviews were and how they deviated from acceptable practices and
guidelines.  Also it is important that the jury know that there were children
who did deny, who gave inaccurate testimony, and who contradicted the testimony
of other children who did make allegations.  The failure of the interviewers
and of the investigators to take these facts into account highlights their
strong belief and bias that the children were abused and that they
systematically ignored exculpatory evidence.

Not showing the videos of the
children to the jury gives the false impression that all children spontaneously
disclosed abuse and that this was corroborated by their classmates.


3. The State’s Expert Witnesses Mislead the Jury
about the Scientific Evidence that is pertinent to this case and that was
available in 2000.

I have read portions of the
experts’ testimony and declare that they have misrepresented what is known
about the accuracy and suggestibility of children’s reports.  For example,

Finlayson testified that most
children are not suggestible and that their reports cannot be tainted through
peer contact.  Clearly this witness had not read the literature.  It is true
that most children may not be suggestible if they are asked one or two
misleading questions in another wise neutral interview.  But a large proportion
of children would come to make false claims if they were interviewed in the
same manner and in the same circumstances (peer pressure, peer interaction,
parent interviews, community involvement) that occurred in this case.

Ginger Rogers claim that it is
rare for children to develop a false belief after a short 15 minute interview
is also not entirely accurate.  But more importantly, for the purpose of the
present case, this is not what happened to the children.  There were many
interviews which might have resulted in false beliefs.

Ms. Robins testimony that the
“truth-lie” section of the interview protected children from using fantasy.  As
discussed above, children do not use fantasy when suggestively interviewed and
truth-lie discussions do not affect the accuracy of children’s interview


Section 3:  Summary and Conclusions

The evolution of the children’s allegations in this case can
only be understood in terms of the community and parental response to the
initial allegations.  Children who did make allegations did not do so for the
first time in the forensic interviews and for this reason the interviews
themselves are not valuable for all they show is the effects of parents’
previous (suggestive) questioning of the children.  Despite the fact that many
of the children seemed to readily tell of bad touching, the interviews that I
reviewed at least show that the interviews were structured to focus on “bad
touching”, to include repeated questions and leading questions and to exclude
any challenge to the child’s reports.  Children were never asked in the
interviews about talks with parents and friends previous to the interview. 
They were never directly asked if they remember being touched or it they
remember someone telling them about being touched.   Rather, they were
questioned until the right amount of evidence was elicited.  The example of
Alan Sherman’s interview showed how these interviewers proceeded when children
were not forthcoming.  In general none of these interviews met traditional
criteria for “unbiased, non-suggestive interviews”.

The jury was not provided with the necessary details or with
the wrong details to properly evaluate the facts of the case.  The experts for
the State provided wrong and misguided information on interviewing techniques
and the suggestibility of children.  Further, they should have been shown the
videos of children who did not testify so that they could appreciate the amount
of poor interviewing, the number of children who denied touched, failed to
corroborate other children’s testimony, and who gave inaccurate testimony.

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