Bradley attorney Todd Presnell was quoted in Courthouse News Service on a Massachusetts law that states parents don’t have to testify against their minor children in court. Prosecutors are now trying to turn the law around and use it against juvenile defendants, by saying the law prohibits any testimony by a parent, even if it would help the child. The problem with the rule is that a parent can be cross-examined and forced to say things that would be against the child's interest.
That’s “the key issue,” said Presnell.
In federal courts, cross-examination is limited to the subjects that were brought up in direct testimony. But in Massachusetts, as in most states, cross-examination is “wide-open,” Presnell noted. If the mother testified about police misconduct, he said, the prosecution could then ask her, “Well, did your child have a gun? Where was he on the day in question?” And then the mother might be testifying against the child.
The original article, "If a Child Is on Trial, Can a Parent Be a Witness?" appeared in Courthouse News Service on May 7, 2021.