The Courts Beginning to See That Eyewitnesses Are Fallible

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), August 31, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Courts Beginning to See That Eyewitnesses Are Fallible


Byline: Robert Rocklin

As you walk down the street, you see someone knock a person down, take his bike and run off; you talk to the police at the scene. Months later, the police ask you to view a photo lineup.

The police officer says, "I will now show you several photographs. The person who committed the crime may or may not be in any of these photos. Tell me immediately if you recognize the person who committed the crime." You identify the suspect, and he is convicted of assault and robbery.

That kind of eyewitness identification is a mainstay not only of television shows and movies, but also of criminal prosecutions. But despite the widespread use of such sure-fire "I saw it with my own eyes" identifications, social science research consistently has demonstrated that eyewitness identifications often are wrong.

Indeed, it has been estimated that up to one-third of the 75,000 annual eyewitness identifications in criminal investigations are wrong. Of the first 250 exonerations involving DNA evidence, 190 involved eyewitnesses who were wrong - despite, in many cases, complete confidence on the part of the eyewitnesses.

In short, eyewitness identification is not all it is cracked up to be.

Courts often haven't paid much attention to what social scientists have learned about eyewitness testimony. Last week, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized what research psychologists and others have been trying to tell the legal community for decades.

In a 135-page opinion issued on Aug. 24, the court explained that New Jersey's procedure for determining whether eyewitness identification evidence would be allowed in court had to be revised in light of decades of research calling into question the reliability of such evidence.

New Jersey courts - like the federal courts and most state courts, including Oregon's - had been using a test announced by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 35 years ago. In its ruling last week, the New Jersey court set out a new procedure for judges to use in determining whether eyewitness identification testimony should be kept from the jury.

Under the new procedure, a criminal defendant first must demonstrate that police used a procedure that was suggestive - that is, acted in ways that made it more likely that the witness would identify the person that the police suspected of the crime.

If a defendant can meet that burden, the court must then hold a hearing to examine all factors that could have affected the reliability of the identification, such as poor lighting or the presence of a gun at the scene, or the use of suggestive police procedures when the identification was made. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Courts Beginning to See That Eyewitnesses Are Fallible
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.