The forensics of victim trauma often leads to the unique presentation of human trafficking cases in court. Many victims lose the ability to recall events in a linear fashion, and thus prosecutors may need to adopt a thematic rather than chronological structure to their presentation of the victim’s story.
Human trafficking cases frequently involve numerous incidents over long spans of time, and veteran prosecutors will use visual landmarks to anchor the memories of judges and jurors during specific portions of testimony.
Knowing the importance of primacy and regency (the primacy effect means that people remember the first thing they read or see, while regency effect means people remember the last, or most recent, thing they read or see) for judicial fact-finders, experienced human trafficking prosecutors file motions in the right cases to bifurcate parts of the proceedings, or seek to recall certain witnesses multiple times to enable them to testify in an incident-specific, rather than witness-specific, manner.
Human trafficking prosecutors maximize the available corroboration of victims and informants in the case by presenting such evidence in three-dimensions, before, during, and after the “suspect” testimony. In this way, jurors are trained to believe the key witness as to certain facts in advance of the witness’s appearance, receive other facts as reliable during the testimony itself, and are rewarded for believing still other facts after the witness leaves the courtroom.
Human trafficking prosecutors must always “own” the realities of their victims and informants and, when appropriate, explain victim sensitivities and concerns to the jury early in the proceedings, but through careful presentation of the corroborative evidence, prosecutors can still succeed.
For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 5.5 Strategies for Prosecution and Law Enforcement.