Eyewitness Testimony, Helpful or Hinderance

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Eyewitness evidence can be fundamental when it comes to solving crimes, however, with the increasing number of cases now being exonerated by DNA evidence, the questions lies, what degree of confidence should be placed on the evidence of the eyewitnesses alone? Countless factors are associated with the accuracy and consistency of eyewitness evidence, such as line up content, line up instructions, the questioning techniques of interviewers and notably the gender and/or age of the witness. Eyewitness testimony may not always be accurate, but despite its weaknesses, by using empirical studies to guide reforms, eyewitness testimony can be an extremely beneficial instrument in the criminal justice system. Inaccurate evidence is not necessarily…show more content…
Therefore the age of an eyewitness is an important point to note when considering the accuracy of eyewitness identification, especially with the case of very young children providing significantly inferior accuracy than adults if questioned incorrectly. When children are questioned in the same method as adults, misinterpretation and errors can weaken the child’s credibility and the accuracy of their testimony. The fact however remains that eyewitness testimony can be beneficial if caution is exercised when interviewing children so as to not repeat questions, suggest information, or allow for interviewer assumptions and/or bias.

As well as age, the gender of an eyewitness has been consistently linked to issues with the accuracy and consistency of evidence. Jacqueline and Wolfgang (1986) referenced one of the earliest empirical studies of gender differences in eyewitness testimony, that of William Stern (1903-1904) with the opinion that “women’s eyewitness testimony was less accurate and less resistant to the influence of misleading information than men’s” (Pg. 565). Research has since revealed a female advantage in the number of details, and the accuracy of memory recall when providing eyewitness testimony. A study undertaken by Areh (2011) states “gender is one of the factors significantly influencing memory recall” (Pg. 559). The study concentrated on “sex differences in the accuracy and quantity of memory recall for specific details of an event” (Pg. 559).

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