The Role of Eyewitness Testimony and the Weapon Effect in a Criminal Investigation

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Eyewitness testimony plays a crucial role in criminal investigations. Thus, it is important to know how to eliminate factors that can negatively impact eyewitnesses’ recall ability. The result of eyewitness misidentification can lead to numerous inaccurate and wrongful convictions. One study suggests that more than 75,000 people a year become criminal defendants on the basis of eyewitness identifications (Schechel, O'Toole, Easterly, & Loftus, 2006, p.178). Another study has shown that approximately 100 people who were convicted have been exonerated by forensic evidence. Moreover, 75% of these people were known to be victims of mistaken identification. The known DNA exoneration cases are just a fragment of the innocent people who have been …show more content…
Conversely, the extent of human abilities has been scrutinized for its validity. As a result of this concern, psychologists are being asked to serve as expert witnesses to justify the information collected from eyewitnesses.
Schechel et al (2006) introduced factors that could dilute the validity of eyewitness testimony. Factors known to reduce the reliability and validity of eyewitness testimonies are accuracy-confidence correlation, stress effects, time estimates, cross-race bias, post-event information, and presentation format. First, Accuracy-Confidence Correlation is when confidence of an eyewitness is proven to be a bad indicator of identification accuracy. Second, stress-effects were defined as the effects to highly stressful situations which increase the vividness of an experience, thus reducing the ability of an eyewitness to recall details about the perpetrators physical characteristics. Third, time estimates is a phenomenon in which an eyewitness overestimates how long a time frame an event takes place over. Fourth, cross-race bias occurs when eyewitnesses are more accurate when identifying members of their own race as opposed to members of other races. Fifth, post event information is when an event often emulates not only what the eyewitness saw, but also the information learned during the process that unconsciously becomes a part of one’s
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