Trial Team Focuses on Helping Victims, Landing Convictions

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- Being a part of a court trial can be stressful and confusing for anyone, but, that's especially true for children who may be victims of physical or sexual abuse.

That's why a relatively new trial team is dedicating their efforts to not only preparing kids for court, but, ultimately, getting more convictions and landing more criminals behind bars.

"Court's not any easy thing for anybody," Amanda Kavan, an advocate with Lincoln's Child Advocacy Center, said, "let alone a child."

Kavan works with the trial team helping victims prepare to tell their story in front of a jury and judge.

"It definitely takes some time," Kavan said.

"I think the main thing is to just ensure that we build that team. Just focusing on the team behind that child, empowering the child with this team, to ensure that they will be able to get up there and have the courage, and empower them, to testify against their offenders."

The group meets once a month, going case by case. Investigators, advocates and attorneys were still required to meet prior to nine months ago due to state statute. However, there's never been a group where the sole focus was preparing for trial.

"It certainly does help to have some input from the advocate who works with the victim," Eric Miller, a deputy county attorney, said, "as well as the investigator, to bounce some things off of them to see if I'm missing anything."

Before these meetings started, attorneys like Miller may have only met with a victim a couple times in the few weeks or months prior to the trial.

Now, he's meeting with the victim six or seven times, better preparing them for court, where they may be feet away from someone who hurt them.

"Just the way that kids communicate is much different than the way adults communicate," Miller said.

"Using the terminology, getting them to use terminology that the jury will understand. When you deal with child victims, it tends to hit you a little harder than with an adult."

And Mill said there can be more pressure to succeed and get guilty convictions, especially with kids involved.

"It's something that you really want to get to the bottom to," Miller said.

Kavan also feels that pressure during the actual trial, hoping the child can say what they need to say, and help put a criminal away.

"A lot of it is stressful, even for myself," Kavan said.

"So, you can only imagine what's going through that child, through their mind and how they're feeling as far as anxiety, and stress, and fear of anything."

That's why Kavan, Miller and the other dedicated members of the team hope the hours spent in these meetings will lead to more guilty verdicts, and a quicker road to recovery for the victims.

"Just to try and see down the road that we'll impact more families and children in a positive way," Kavan said, "by working as a team, and kind of coming together for that child to make that process as easy as it could be."