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February 21, 2024 Clouds | 27°F
The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 82: Civil proceedings; out-of-court statements describing sexual contact; admissibility

Section 82. (a) The out-of-court statements of a child under the age of ten describing any act of sexual contact performed on or with the child, the circumstances under which it occurred, or which identifies the perpetrator shall be admissible as substantive evidence in any civil proceeding, except proceedings brought under subparagraph C of section twenty-three or section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen; provided, however, that such statement is offered as evidence of a material fact and is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence which the proponent can procure through reasonable efforts; the person to whom such statement was made or who heard the child make such statement testifies; the judge finds pursuant to subsection (b) that the child is unavailable as a witness; and the judge finds pursuant to subsection (c) that such statement is reliable.

(b) The proponent of such statement shall demonstrate a diligent and good faith effort to produce the child and shall bear the burden of showing unavailability. A finding of unavailability shall be supported by specific findings on the record, describing facts with particularity, demonstrating that:

(1) the child is unable to be present or to testify because of death or existing physical or mental illness or infirmity; or

(2) by a ruling of the court, the child is exempt on the ground of privilege from testifying concerning the subject matter of such statement; or

(3) the child testifies to a lack of memory of the subject matter of such statement; or

(4) the child is absent from the hearing and the proponent of such statement has been unable to procure the attendance of the child by process or by other reasonable means; or

(5) the court finds, based upon expert testimony from a treating psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinician, that testifying would be likely to cause severe psychological or emotional trauma to the child; or

(6) the child is not competent to testify.

(c) If a finding of unavailability is made, the out-of-court statement shall be admitted if the judge further statement was made under oath, that it was accurately recorded and preserved, and there was sufficient opportunity to cross-examine; or (2) after holding a separate hearing and, where practicable and where not inconsistent with the best interests of the child, meeting with the child, that such statement was made under circumstances inherently demonstrating a special guarantee of reliability.

For the purposes of finding circumstances demonstrating reliability pursuant to clause (2) of subsection (c) a judge may consider whether the relator documented the child witness's statement, and shall consider the following factors:

(i) the clarity of the statement, meaning, the child's capacity to observe, remember, and give expression to that which such child has seen, heard, or experienced; provided, however, that a finding under this clause shall be supported by expert testimony from a treating psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinician;

(ii) the time, content and circumstances of the statement;

(iii) the existence of corroborative evidence of the substance of the statement regarding the abuse including either the act, the circumstances, or the identity of the perpetrator;

(iv) the child's sincerity and ability to appreciate the consequences of the statement.

(d) An out-of-court statement admissible by common law or by statute shall remain admissible notwithstanding the provisions of this section.