Eyewitness evidence has always been considering critical information when it comes to court trials and convictions. But how reliable are eyewitnesses? Scientific research has shown that eyewitness’s memories are often not accurate or reliable. Human memory is very malleable and is easily changed by suggestion. Relying on eyewitness evidence instead of scientific data often leads to wrongful convictions. Scientific evidence is much more reliable, and should be more important in court cases than eyewitness evidence.
Eyewitness testimony has long been viewed as important evidence in court cases. The general population believes eyewitness identification more than any other evidence, even if the witness account is conflicting with the other evidence presented. Studies show that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and yet it is still considered the most important form of evidence. People think that if a person says they saw something then it must have happened. Currently there are no universal guidelines on how to obtain and present such evidence. The purpose of this paper is to explain why eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and discuss the proposed guidelines on how law enforcement agencies should gather identifications, as well how
The most vicious cause of wrongful conviction is eyewitness misidentification. According to the Innocence Project, 72% of overturned wrongful convictions through DNA testing were due to eyewitness misidentification1. As this statistics implies, eyewitness identification (Eye-ID) is untrustworthy information. The main reason why Eye-ID lacks accuracy is due to malleability of memories. The Innocence Project asserts there are two variables greatly influence memory and also Eye-ID. One type of variables is “estimator variables” which are incontrollable factors by the criminal justice system. Examples of estimator variables are environmental factors (e.g., lighting and distance) when the crime occurred, racial factors, and psychological factors (e.g., severity of trauma)1. The other type of variable is “system variables” which is controllable by the criminal justice system. These variables are within the procedure of attaining evidences. For instance, post-identification feedback (e.g., confirming feedback that an eyewitness receives), biased lineup/ photo array composition, biased administrators of lineup can negatively influences Eye-ID.
All of the above factors and causes for wrongful causes of eyewitness testimonies as well as factors such as: the lighting of the area where the incident happened, how long the victim was with the victimiser, how stressful the situation was and the amount of time between the crime and alerting authorities can have a huge impact on ones eyewitness testimony. Although the witness may seem adamant and confident in their testimony, the above factors should be assessed and taken into consideration when reflecting on the accuracy and reliability of the witness’s testimony.
An eyewitness testimony is unreliable because of many different things. Sometimes when witnesses see something they don’t see the whole crime, but only parts which could cause the wrong people to be in trouble. When it’s a serious crime the trial could take years and when asked to stand trial against the perpetrator the witness’s memory could not be fully correct anymore. You could forget important things or get mixed up with things you’ve seen somewhere else, like in a movie. Another reason they are unreliable is Because individuals with certain psychological disorders, like antisocial personality disorder and substance dependence, are at high risk for criminal involvement, they are also at high risk for false identifications by eyewitnesses.
Information is the lifeblood of a criminal investigation. The ability of investigators to obtain useful and accurate information from eyewitnesses of crimes is crucial to effective law enforcement, yet full and accurate recall is difficult to achieve (Stewart, 1985). Such elicitation of complete and accurate recall from people is important in many aspects of life; specifically, eyewitness recall may determine whether a case is solved. Principle advocates of the cognitive interview (Fisher, Geiselman, Holland & MacKinnon,
There has been considerable interest and study in the accuracy or inaccuracy of the use of eyewitness testimonies in the current criminal justice system. Results collated by several studies add to the bulk of literature suggesting that the current usage of eyewitness testimony by the legal system is far from ideal. Currently, high emphasis is being placed on reviewing and reconsidering eyewitness accounts (Leinfelt, 2004). In particular, recent DNA exoneration cases have substantiated the warnings of eyewitness identification researchers by showing that mistaken eyewitness identification was the largest single factor contributing to the conviction of innocent people (Wells & Olson, 2003). In this essay, the use of eyewitness testimony in the criminal justice system will be explored, with a particular focus on the impreciseness of this practice.
In Canada, the leading cause of wrongful conviction is due to the factor of eyewitness account. It has been proven that individual’s minds are not like tape recorders because everyone cannot precisely and accurately remember the description of what another person or object looks like. The courts looks at eyewitness accounts as a great factor to nab perpetrators because they believe that the witness should know what they are taking about and seen what occurred on the crime scene. On the other hand, eyewitness accounts lead to a 70 percent chance of wrongful conviction, where witnesses would substantially change their description of a perpetrator.
Eyewitness misidentification can pose a serious threat in forensic evidence. Eye witness testimony can easily be tampered with due to words or phrases used. Bias is a major issue in identification especially if the police officer uses suggestive tones to portray whom they believe is the suspect. Some witnesses will change their opinion when they hear new information of the suspect. A study has shown that words can play a major impact in the witness' mind and cause them to recall false information. False information can also stem from human memory, age, distance, and how long it took before a witness could recall the information. It has been shown that due to the confidence that a witness may have, it could impact the court systems' reliability on the witness; however, there are several solutions that can be done to prevent misidentification in the court of law. Some examples that can be done are blind administration, lineup composition, instructions, confidence statements, and
Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder, we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully, or it can be contaminated. A case I would like to mention is the Calvin Willis Case. One night in 1982, three young girls were sleeping alone in a Shreveport, Louisiana home when a man in cowboy boots came into the house and raped the oldest girl, who was Ten years old. When police started to investigate the rape, the three girls all remembered the attack differently. One police report said the Ten year old victim didn’t see her attacker’s face. Another report which wasn’t introduced at trial said she identified Calvin Willis, who lived in the neighbourhood. The girl’s mother testified at trial that neighbours had mentioned Willis’s name when discussing who might have committed the crime. The victim testified that she was shown photos and told to pick the man without a full beard. She testified that she didn’t pick anyone, police said she picked Willis. Willis was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. In 2003, DNA testing proved Willis’ innocence and he was released. He had served nearly Twenty Two years in prison for a crime he didn’t
Is our justice system fair? Is our justice system truly set out to do what it was meant to do? Or are there social factors and memory errors that come into play that can change a conviction outcome. In today’s court rooms we have, Defense attorneys, Prosecutors, judges, juries, evidence, forensics experts, witness testimonies, and of course the human memory. What better type of evidence than the human memory, right? Unfortunately, human memory is subject to the power of suggestion and unable to truly recall an event when told to recall. In other words, the story may not be the same as the one that actually happened the day of that event because many variables come into play like cross examinations and the way a question can be asked can alter the answer or how the event was perceived. The main focus of this paper is to see how the human brain is not able to effectively recall events which could possibly convict an innocent person of wrong doing. Also how lawyers use the misinformation effect to their advantage. In order to understand how something as simple as a question can decide a person’s faith we must first answer some questions. First, How does memory actually work and how is memory retrieved when your need to answer a question or being cross examined? Second, how does the misinformation effect play a role when a witness needs to testify against the defense or vice versa? Third, how can structuring a word or sentence effect the outcome of a conviction?
First, the human memory does not record all information like a video recorder. Mistaken eyewitness testimony is one of the major causes of wrong conviction. Events of crimes, will have so much stress or focus on a weapon, than the face of criminal (Wrongful Convictions , n.d.). The victim’s or eyewitness’s memory can be changed with an easy simple suggestion. Police procedure dealing with key witnesses by a “show up”. This is showing the suspect in a physical or a picture line up. The confidence of accuracy of identification and exhibited by the witness is a “crucial determinant of believability” by jurors (Furman, 2003). The best result of eyewitness testimony is taken identification immediately. The
The impact of eyewitness testimony upon the members of a jury has been the subject of various research projects and has guided the policies formed by the federal government regarding its competent use in criminal matters (Wells, Malpass, Lindsay, Fisher, Turtle, & Fulero, 2000). Therefore, eyewitness studies are important to understand how
There are many different factors that play a part in the increased chance of a witness correctly identifying a suspect. Such factors should be brought to the attention of the jury and the judge to help in properly assessing whether a witness is correctly identifying a suspect. A study by Magnussen, Melinder, Stridbeck, & Raja (2010) found that of the three different types of people: judge, jury, and general public, that for the most part all where fairly ill-informed on the reliability of eyewitness testimony with judges having the most. Judges only had about an 8% difference in knowledge when compared to jurors. With this information it is very clear that education on the reliability of eyewitness testimony needs to become more of a general knowledge information for the everyone, especially people who are involved in upholding the law. Another factor to look into when evaluating the accuracy eyewitness testimony is the role that memory plays. Memory is divided into three processes: perceiving, remembering, and recalling information (Simmonsen, 2013). There is plenty of room in all three of those stages to forget or falsely remember something. Some factors that play a part when a person perceives an event is the amount of time they are exposed to the event and the suspect. A study conducted by Horry, Halford, Brewer, Milne, & Bull. (2014) found that witnesses were increasingly more likely to correctly identify a suspect if they had been exposed to the suspect for sixty
Eyewitness identification and testimony play a huge role in the criminal justice system today, but skepticism of eyewitnesses has been growing. Forensic evidence has been used to undermine the reliability of eyewitness testimony, and the leading cause of false convictions in the United States is due to misidentifications by eyewitnesses. The role of eyewitness testimony in producing false confessions and the factors that contribute to the unreliability of these eyewitness testimonies are sending innocent people to prison, and changes are being made in order to reform these faulty identification procedures.