¶ … eyewitness testimony is far from being a gold standard in criminal justice. At least 75% of wrongful convictions for violent crimes including rape and murder were based on eyewitness testimony, and many of those convictions led to the death penalty (Bohannon 2014). Stambor (2006) found that 78% of wrongful convictions were based on overreliance on eyewitness testimony. It is therefore critical to reexamine the policies and procedures surrounding the collection and use of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases. Emerging research in perception, cognition, and the study of memory provides the framework with which to base a reform of criminal justice procedures. Training of police officers, and a comprehensive debriefing of judges, juries, and the witnesses themselves, are also possible solutions for minimizing problems with eyewitness reports. Although eyewitness testimony can be tremendously helpful in criminal cases, the evidence must be analyzed in a scientific and systematic manner. During lineups, police officers often divulge cues unconsciously but subconsciously perceived by the eyewitness. For example, "A detective might smile, grunt, or nod approvingly when a suspect is chosen," (Bohannon 2014). Asking leading questions can distort memory or create false memories (McLeod 2009). Eyewitness recall can be affected by any number of factors. "Although the individual may be unaware of it, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted," (National Academy of Sciences 2014).
Some of the problems that may affect the validity of eyewitness testimony include being under stress during the event witnessed, being under stress during
Moreover, memories are often constructed to fit schemas. Stereotypes and subconscious racism and other biases can greatly affect the accuracy of an eyewitness recall. According to the National Academy of Sciences (2014), "eyewitnesses are more likely to make mistakes when making an identification among people of another race rather than when making an identification of a person from the eyewitness's own race." Eyewitnesses also have trouble identifying faces when there was a weapon present during the witnessed event. Known as "weapon focus," the tendency for the mind to focus on the details of the weapon as opposed to the face of the person wielding the weapon, is a well-documented issue related to the validity of eyewitness perception (McLeod 2009). Other aspects of the visual system impact the reliability of eyewitness testimony, such as lighting and distance. The greater the distance between eyewitness and suspect, the less likely the eyewitness can accurately pull the correct person out of a lineup, which is why…
During lineups, police officers often divulge cues unconsciously but subconsciously perceived by the eyewitness. For example, "A detective might smile, grunt, or nod approvingly when a suspect is chosen," (Bohannon 2014). Asking leading questions can distort memory or create false memories (McLeod 2009). Eyewitness recall can be affected by any number of factors. "Although the individual may be unaware of it, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted," (National Academy of Sciences 2014).
Eyewitness Testimony The Supreme Court, in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 93 S. Ct. 375 (1972), set out some guidelines as to what a court must consider when it is trying to determine how much credibility to give to eyewitness testimony. This case involved a woman who identified a man who she claimed had raped her. The case revolved around the credibility of her identification. The Court laid out the
41+). Loftus notes that science has found "post-event information" is integrated into what most people have actually experienced because, "when people experience some actual event -- say a crime or an accident -- they often later acquire new information about the event. This new information can contaminate the memory" (Loftus, 2002, March, p. 41+). In addition, many false memories are created, deliberately or by accident, in response to leading questioning
Eyewitness Testimony Current Event in Criminal Justice The Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony The execution of Troy Anthony Davis on September 27, 2011, in Georgia has stirred new debate over the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Davis was convicted of the August 19, 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. Working a security guard at a Burger King, MacPhail was shot when he attempted to defend a man being assaulted in a
Thus while an interviewer may simply be trying to pin down additional details of an incident (for example), the eyewitness may believe that she or he is being challenged about the accuracy of his or her memory and statement and begin (again, most likely unconsciously and not in any attempt to commit perjury) to shift answers to coincide with what the witness believes the interviewer want to hear (Poole
Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Issues When investigating and prosecuting crimes and other incidents, their can be a heavy level of reliance on eyewitness testimony to substantiate the facts that are suggested by other evidence and to fill in missing gaps in the story of the crime, accident, or other incident. This can be a problem, however, as two different eyewitness accounts of the same incident are likely to differ significantly
Law enforcement has a direct ethical responsibility to preventing wrongful convictions, no matter how heavy the pressure for a conviction may be from a political standpoint. Wrongful convictions represent a miscarriage of justice and draw attention to procedural problems in law enforcement. One of the problems that has been shown to lead to wrongful convictions is the method by which eyewitness testimony is secured. Recent criminal justice policy and procedure