eyewitness testimony in court cases

A Brief Overview of the Field of Forensic Psychology, Forensic Psychologist Education, Salary, and Job duties, Change Blindness Is How We Miss the Big Changes Around Us, Types of Cognitive Biases That Influence Your Thinking and Beliefs. A purported eyewitness, who in fact was the actual killer, framed Mr. Adams and received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. This expert may discuss cognitive psychology and how it may have played a part in the case. Updated January 2020. Critiquing Eyewitness Testimony . Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence: Training Teams. On May 3, 1982, in a Norfolk, Va. circuit court, the 29-year-old was convicted of a rape that he did not commit and was sentenced to five life sentences. Researchers have found that the words investigators use to gather facts can influence how people respond when asked about the details of an event. Thompson escaped the assailant and ran to a nearby house to call for help. 2016;42(12):1653-1665. doi:10.1177/0146167216669123, Hourihan KL, Benjamin AS, Liu X. The Flores case shows how our criminal justice system mishandles eyewitness testimony Eyewitness testimony is reliable, but only under specific circumstances Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant on Wednesday to change how criminal trials are conducted in a case about the reliability of eyewitness identification testimony. How is it possible for an innocent person to be found guilty? Working memory can be controversial though, because someone who has a stronger working memory may be able to remember things better and store details in their long-term memory, which in turn would make them more reliable. Last night's execution of convicted murderer Troy Davis reportedly sent those convinced of Davis' innocence into hysterics. 2019. doi:10.1007/s11896-019-09361-2, Lacy JW, Stark CEL. Retrieved from https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/10/30/eyewitness-testimony-is-unreliable-or-is-it. For example they may be required to give a description at a trial of a robbery or a road accident someone has seen. Nat Rev Neurosci. Witnesses also tend to pair the worst crimes with people with darker skin. However, the veracity of eyewitness testimony is often called into question because of factors that influence the ability of a witness to accurately recall an event.. Eyewitness testimony can make things worse, but sometimes hints here and there can make a significant difference in a case. A person can be convicted of a crime or not convicted of a crime depending on how reliable the eyewitness is and how much they can convey to a jury (Bryant, 2020). The first exoneration by DNA evidence took place in the U.S. in 1989., According to the Innocence Project, as of January 2020, 367 convictions have been overturned through DNA exoneration since 1989. Loftus EF. When a legal team presents an eyewitness who can confidently identify the suspect and confirm that they saw them commit a crime, jurors are compelled to believe them. Your blog reminded me of a Forensic course I took last year as well as a Criminal Justice course. Under the right circumstances, eyewitness testimony can be reliable. 2011. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780199828340-0026‌. VERIFYING EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY. If eyewitness testimony were actually reliable then all of those cases would not have been overturned. The following essay will present research that has investigated why eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate and may consequently not be relevant in a court case. One of the examples is the recent case of Darren Wilson, who was convicted for shooting Michael Brown (Department of Justice, 2015). Eyewitnesses have an incredible impact on which way a case goes and they have a difficult job to remember everything they saw in possibly a very short period of time. Gary Dotson. Eyewitness testimony remains a crucial part of the criminal justice system, but it has flaws. Therefore, a person who has a lower working memory will not have the ability to move information, such as details of a crime into their long-term memory, meaning they may not be able to recall an event that took place awhile before (Jenkins, 2018). I testify in court about the nature of human memory and the psychological factors that affect eyewitness testimony. In my forensic class, the instructor would always make it fun, and we had to “play” games along with our routine course work. Eyewitness memories can also be malleable. Memory decay is also an issue with eyewitness testimony. Memories fade with time, and it's not uncommon for months if not years to pass before a case goes to trial. The Uprise of Media Violence and it’s Effects on Children, Developing a Solution for Alcoholism in Early Adulthood, Lesson 8: Breaking The Negative Self Fulfilling Prophecy. Therefore, it depends solely on the individual themselves and how dependable they are as an eyewitness. Ideally this recollection of events is detailed; however, this is not always the case. Eyewitness testimony is the account a bystander or victim gives in the courtroom, describing what that person observed that occurred during the specific incident under investigation. WordPress. Many factors have to be looked at to determine reliability. Eyewitness Testimony has been a controversial topic in court cases for as long as I can remember. Recently though, with the rise of social science, eyewitness testimony has taken a tumble from its lofty standing. People are different in the way they recognize and recall events … It involves a more complicated process than might initially be presumed. It was Thompson’s identification that served as the main factor in determining Cotton's guilt. There should be other ways to back it up in a court case, so that the jury does not rely solely on eyewitness testimony. To the swelling chorus of activists and researchers who argue that eyewitness testimony is both fundamentally unreliable and over-relied upon, the Cotton case is a prime example of what can go tragically wrong when court cases hinge on human recollection. Eyewitness testimony can play a big part in criminal court cases. For less serious crimes, the witnesses were more likely to point to lighter-skinned individuals. Eyewitness testimony has long been viewed as important evidence in court cases. J Police Crim Psych. People struggle to discriminate among faces that don’t resemble their own, especially if they are in a majority population group.. Appl Cognit Psychol. Ronald Cotton. Is the eyewitness lying? Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. The ability to link an individual to a crime through their DNA also allowed for the exoneration of people who had been wrongly convicted. These suggest that some people have the ability to direct their attention to multiple objects or elements of an eyewitness event, which can make their eyewitness memory more accurate, whereas others do not (Jenkins, 2018). In a legal sense, eyewitness testimony refers to an individual's firsthand account of an event that they witnessed (usually one that is suspected to be or considered to be a crime).. A jury’s role in a court hearing is to identify credibility issues and assess the truth of the witness’ statement. It includes what happens during the actual crime to facilitate or hamper witnessing, as well … Do You Notice the Signs When Someone Is Lying? Eyewitness memory is memory that involves remembering specific events, using episodic memory and elements of semantic memory, while also remembering the meanings associated with the events (Jenkins, 2018). Powered by Their 1977 decision in Manson v. Braithwaite8 provides a two-step process for determining if an eyewitness identification that was obtained using … FREQUENCY OF EYEWITNESS CASES 73 Table I If large urban areas with a high incidence of serious crime Prosecutors' Replies to Questionnaire, produce more than their share of EW cases, our data will Listed Alphabetically by Location underestimate the frequency of EW cases. The general population believes eyewitness identification more than any other evidence, even if the witness account is conflicting with the other evidence presented. By contrast, the other group received the message that they did not have to make a choice if they didn't think the suspect was in the lineup. It's not uncommon for eyewitnesses to have a poor view of an event. Darkness, bad eyesight, an obstructed view, and a large distance between the witness and the action are all factors that can affect a witness’s ability to recall events accurately. A Man Was Jailed For 20 Years Due To A Single Eyewitness — Who Now Wants To Recant. Hundreds of innocent people have been exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States since the 1990s, and eyewitness misidentification was the root cause in 70% of the cases. The reliability of an eyewitness testimony may improve if investigators: Use double blind procedures. Loftus EF. The most important foundation for eyewitness testimony is a person's memory - after all, whatever testimony is being reported is coming from what a person remembers. Ever wonder what your personality type means? Another one involved a man named Brandon Garrett from the University of Virginia School of Law who ended up analyzing 161 cases of eyewitness misidentification that ended up getting exonerated because of DNA (Ryan, 2015). Experts on the task force were asked to develop guidelines for law enforcement to ensure that eyewitnesses would not be pressured, unconsciously encouraged, or persuaded to give false statements. Nor, given the stark facts about eyewitness unreliability, could the Court of Appeals approve a blanket rule of inadmissibility. What You Need to Know Before You Call the Police, A Biography of Memory Expert Elizabeth Loftus, How Women of Color Are Impacted by Domestic Violence, Gaslighting: How It Affects Marginalized Folx, Daily Tips for a Healthy Mind to Your Inbox, pair the worst crimes with people with darker skin, Lessons from the origins of eyewitness testimony research in Europe, Perceptions and credibility: Understanding the nuances of eyewitness testimony, Ronald Cotton Celebrates 24th Exoneration Anniversary, Rethinking the reliability of eyewitness memory, Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence: Training Teams, Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory, Intelligence, authority and blame conformity: Co-witness influence is moderated by the perceived competence of the information source, The neuroscience of memory: Implications for the courtroom. But study after study shows that it is very easy to misinterpret what one observes, and even easier to fill in missing information with false memories. Eyewitness testimony is a legal term. Consequently, their bias affects how much information they retain about a suspect. What Motivates People to Commit Hate Crimes? An estimated 86% of eyewitnesses claim to have spoken with other witnesses before talking to law enforcement. Eyewitness testimony can influence jury decision. In addition to an almost slavish reliance on eyewitness testimony, a review of the Dallas County DNA cases showed that: *Thirteen of the 19 wrongly convicted men were black. The guilt or innocence of people being tried in courts of law often depends, upon the accuracy of the memories of eyewitnesses. Studies show that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and yet it is still considered the most important form of evidence. To ensure the information witnesses provide is accurate, the people working on a criminal case must carefully examine how witnesses were questioned, as well as the language that law enforcement used to respond to their answers. Such a witness may discuss the traits that are more likely to be associated with positive and negative identifications. Less often, an eyewitness will be shown a single photo and asked, “Is this the perpetrator?” However, single photos produce less accurate results compared to lineups. Hence, this essay will focus on the question whether eyewitness testimony should or hould not be admitted in court on the basis of the research findings in the field of memory and eyewitness testimony. The testimony of an eyewitness is crucial and juries have the tendency to pay close attention to the details a witness is recalling (Jenkins, 2018). A person can be convicted of a crime or not convicted of a crime depending on how reliable the eyewitness is and how much they can convey to a jury (Bryant, 2020). Studies have shown that when law enforcement officials confirm a witness's choice in a lineup, the witness’s confidence is inflated. However, if police feedback suggests a witness failed to pick the “correct” suspect, the witness's confidence wanes, which can affect future court testimony.. The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider whether a state can block defense lawyers from attacking the dependability of eyewitness testimony. In an eyewitness game, we had to virtually play, we would have to try to retain as much info as possible on some random accident/event that was going on. Jurors often find eyewitness testimony(EWT) vitally important in making their decision and yet in 75 per cent of cases where individuals have been found by DNA evidence to have been wrongly convicted, the original guilty verdict was based on inaccurate EWT. Eyewitness Testimony Is Unreliable… Or Is It? To better understand the role of eyewitness testimony in court proceedings, let us take a look at its pros and cons. Sign up to find out more in our Healthy Mind newsletter. Eight of … Eyewitness testimony can thus be critiqued on several grounds: having impaired perception, having impaired memory, having an inconsistent testimony, having bias or prejudice, and not having a reputation for telling the truth.If any of those characteristics can be demonstrated, then the competency of a witness is questionable. Other studies have found that expert testimony improves juror. If a witness provides testimony that is untrue or mistaken, it can lead to a wrongful conviction., Evidence on the reliability of eyewitness testimony is mixed. Where do we draw the line on which eyewitness testimonies to use and which ones not to use? Therefore, it is important that eyewitness testimony presented in court is accurate. Based on the task force's work, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) produced a guide book for law enforcement officials outlining the correct way to interview and interact with eyewitnesses.. (2015, October 30). The problem is these eyewitness accounts aren't always accurate. Eyewitness testimony is the account a bystander or victim gives in the courtroom, describing what that person observed that occurred during the specific incident under investigation. Memory in the Real World: How Reliable is Eyewitness Testimony? A cross-race effect in metamemory: Predictions of face recognition are more accurate for members of our own race. The theme of the cognitive psychology studies in the H167 exam is memory. There has to be something done so that innocent people stop going to prison. Innocence Project. Why are eyewitnesses unreliable? Eyewitness Testimony. If a weapon was used in the crime that an eyewitness saw, the weapon itself can actually affect what the eyewitness remembered specifically about the crime because they tend to focus more on the weapon and less on the criminal’s appearance (Bryant, 2020). The "weapon focus effect" gives victims the ability to accurately describe a gun or knife (often in great detail), but leaves them with little to no knowledge of what the perpetrator looked like. In a particularly famous case, a man named Ronald Cotton was identified by a rape victim, Jennifer Thompson, as her rapist, and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Eyewitness identification procedures: Recommendations for lineups and photospreads. Eyewitnesses to a crime can either make or break a case depending on what they can recall. Whether someone saw a car speeding down the street minutes after an accident or they were inside a store when it was robbed, eyewitnesses are often the first source police turn to when gathering information about a crime. While jurors tend to believe eyewitnesses, these accounts are not as accurate as other forms of evidence, such as DNA.. Loftus EF. One of the most important things in regards to an eyewitness is their memory. Eyewitness testimony is not always about identifying the perpetrator. There are so many differences between what can make an eyewitness reliable and what may make them unreliable. Updated December 2017. Eyewitness testimony can be a prominent and compelling form of evidence in a courtroom. Investigators also need to determine whether the individuals providing eyewitness testimony were influenced by other witnesses or the environment around them. The over reliance of an eyewitness’ testimony in a court of law has come under scrutiny in psychological research, as some academics deem memory to be malleable and the retention abilities of the brain to be overestimated (Loftus & Palmer, 1974, 2011). Moreover, many members of the criminal justice system believe that errors of identifica­ tion are really quite rare, and therefore they have little reason to refrain from prosecuting when the only evidence Rethinking the reliability of eyewitness memory. When witness testimony is being given by a person who saw an accident or other event occur, that individual is known as an eyewitness. Eyewitnesses also have preconceived notions about the type of people who commit certain crimes. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. © 2020. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Eyewitness Testimony has been a controversial topic in court cases for as long as I can remember. If this percentage of wrongful convictions applied to other types of crimes, there would be 33,000 to 50,000 wrongful felony convictions per year … Research has found that eyewitness-identification testimony can be very unreliable. It may or may not tell what actually happened. The researchers found that telling students that they did not have to choose a suspect led to fewer false identifications. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 1998;22(6):603-647. doi:10.1023/A:1025750605807, Steblay NK, Wells GL, Douglass AB. Psychology of Learning and Motivation. Now, imagine that you witnessed a crime. 2015;38(3):861. A week later, both groups of students were asked if they saw broken glass in the footage of the accidents. In The People v.Lee, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, recently ruled that a trial judge has discretion to admit expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitness identifications.. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site. To evaluate the reliability of memory, it is once again instructive to look to the criminal justice system. Altering details can be problematic because if an eyewitness testimony squanders, then it may be dismissed from the case. Witnesses may also be asked about the facts of the case. Eyewitness testimony is considered by juries to be a reliable form of evidence, if a person saw something happen then surely it happened. While it's not always possible to prevent these factors from interfering, it's important for professionals involved in a criminal investigation to be aware of them. The court heard two additional cases related to eyewitness testimony on that same day in December, including the state of Connecticut vs. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice; 1999. This thesis will attempt to answer these questions and more through the examination of various experiments and the Federal Rules of Evidence and the discussion of court cases dependent upon eyewitness testimony in order to fully identify the nature of eyewitness testimony. It is amazing to me how little details of a crime can affect a person’s ability to actually remember the entire situation that occurred. Some students were asked, “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” while the others were asked, “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into one another?”. But in most cases, that confidence is misplaced. Eyewitness testimony can influence jury decision. 2012;1(3):158-162. doi:10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.06.004. Judges need to be able to asses an eyewitness testimony when it comes to: determining whether or not an eyewitness testimony should be admissible in court, allow and in court witness identification, admit eyewitness expert testimony and in ruling on eyewitness evidentiary issues (Wise, Fisherman & …

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