Eyewitness Identification & Wrongful Conviction Introduction According to Matlin (2013), eyewitness testimonies can be inaccurate for a few reasons including the inability to pick a person from another ethnic group, issues with memory schemas, and being influenced by someone else 's recall of the facts. Therefore, eyewitness testimony is not always the most reliable when faced with trying to place a suspect at the scene of a crime.
Eye witness identification involves selecting an accused perpetrator from a police line up, sketch or being at the crime scene during the murder time. After selecting a suspect, witnesses are asked to make a formal statement confirming the ID of the suspect (s) or other surrounding details which the eyewitness can testify in court. Eyewitnesses are always required to testify in court but eyewitnesses with psychological disorders, substance dependancy are at a higher chance of identifying the wrong suspect therefore wrongfully assisting convict the perpetrator in the wrong (Hal Arkowitz, Scott O. Lilienfeld, January 1, 2010).
Over the past few decades, hundreds of people have been falsely imprisoned. Many of their cases were founded on the account of one or more eyewitnesses. The criminal justice system often relies on eyewitness accounts to piece together a crime and identify the perpetrator. But studies showing the faultiness of our memories, particularly in stressful events, suggest that witnesses may not be as reliable of a source as we think. An often-cited example of when the memory of an eyewitness has failed to serve justice is the case of Ronald Cotton.
Eyewitness misidentification is a major problem that has an effect on adequate policing. One major goal and priority of law enforcement is justice. They should focus on prosecuting the correct person because if they are prosecuting the wrong person they are ruining an innocent persons life and justice is not being served. Many problems can arise from misidentification. It often leads to an innocent persons rights being infringed on. There are many dangers to misidentification and many causes for misidentification occurring.
The first thing we need to discuss is what the ideal eyewitness should be and how they are in the judicial system. The eyewitness’ testimony is taken as the fundamental criterion, and the person should be able to perceive all that transpired during the event, accurately encode these perceptions, exhaustively store the encoded perceptions in memory, and accurately retrieve the encodings from memory in the form of later reports (Penrod, 121). I personally feel that eyewitnesses should be honest no matter what, even if they committed the crime. The trial would not be a long investigation if people owned their mistakes. Also when there are lots of witnesses the investigation can change multiple times and feel like the whole thing is starting back at square one.
First, the factor that leading innocent people be charged is flawed eyewitness identification. Eyewitness is one of principal evidences that policies are looking because someone has knowledge about the crime. A study of contributing causes of wrongful convictions show us that 72% are eyewitness because of misidentification ( The causes of wrongful conviction, 1). This study demonstrated that eyewitness is the highest in wrongful convictions. For example, in the documentary Mr Stephens was the eyewitness which, it is the strong evidence that Detective Williams used against Butler. Mr Stephens told the police that he saw a 6-feet tall men between 20 to 25 years-old. Even though the description given by Mr Stephens did not match with
When one is victim of or witness to a crime, it is expected that said person is brought into the police department to be questioned by the police. During this line of questioning it is possible that the victim or witness take part in suspect identification procedures. Such procedures include the use of lineups, showups, photo arrays and others. These procedures are referred to as system variables. These system variables are factors under the control of the investigators that have a demonstrated effect on the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness testimony. Examples of system variables that can influence eyewitness testimony include but are not limited to: statements made to eyewitnesses prior to and after lineups, instructions given to witnesses
Her earliest studies of eyewitness testimony addressed several issues: when someone sees a crime or accident, how accurate is his or her memory? These studies led Loftus to ask what happens when witness are questioned by police officers, and what if those questions are suggestive (Loftus, 2003). For instance, when Loftus began showing people films of traffic accidents, she found that a question such as “How fast were the cars going when the smashed into each other?” led to higher estimates of speed than a more neutral question that used the verb “hit”. Moreover, the “smashed” question led more people to falsely remember seeing broken glass when there was none.
Furthermore, there can be several factors at play when a wrongful conviction occurs and each case is unique. Three of the more common and detrimental factors that will be explored in this essay are eyewitness error, the use of jailhouse informants and professional and institutional misconduct. Firstly, eyewitness testimony can be a major contributor to a conviction and is an important factor in wrongful conviction (Campbell & Denov, 2016, p. 227). Witness recall and, frankly, the human emory are not as reliable as previously thought. In fact there has been much research showing the problems with eyewitness testimony such as suggestive police interviewing, unconscious transference, and malleability of confidence (Campbell & Denov, 2016, p.227).
The description of the Lockerbie bombing may provide image on how lengthy and complicated an investigation and a trial process could be. Eyewitness would have to go through repeated interviews. The purpose of this procedure is to assess the consistency and accuracy of the testimony. Unfortunately, it is often not realized that repeated interview may also have a negative effect on the quality of the testimony given. A study by Sharps, Herrera, Dunn, and Alcala investigated the effect of repeated questioning in the format based of police procedure (2012).
If information stored in the short-term memory is not learned and given attention, it will decay over time (Schunk 2012, p. 183). The short-term memory has a small capacity, and large amounts of information cannot all be stored (Schunk 2012, p. 183). To make it esier, information can be shortened or broken up to fit it in the short-term memory (Schunk 2012, p. 183). Information that is used will be transferred into the long-term store/ long-term memory (Schunk 2012, p. 183). There are different strategies to strengthen the memory of information from short-term to long-term.
It’s mind blowing how the justice sentence can convict somebody solely off an eye witness testimony, especially if the eye-witness isn’t accurate. “Eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide.’’ (Eyewitness Misindentification,2017) Immediately after reporting the crime, the victim was taken to a hospital where a rape kit was administered, and swabs were taking from her body. Days after the rape the victim was also shown two photo lineups of suspects, however she didn’t identify anyone.
Eyewitness identification is ineffective and unjust. Studies have shown that 40% of eyewitness identifications are wrong (Vrij, 1998). Eyewitness identification has great importance in the legal system. This requires the best eyewitness testimony procedure. This essay examines the three main types of eyewitness line-ups; the showup, the sequential and the simultaneous line-up. This essay draws conclusions as to which method the legal system should implement.
At that precise moment, I know for a fact that I will tell the truth because that is my character and what I believe in. Nonetheless, a sudden fear crosses my mind; the doubt that I will not remember what I witnessed frightens me. Although it has never happened before, at every new trial, I am troubled about the thought that I will not recall exactly what happened during the situation that brought me to trial. Moreover, I believe that the offender that is on trial can easily withhold the truth about their part in the situation. As police officers, we have body cameras that record what we say and what we do during our course of duty; therefore, to see an offender falsely state what happened, sickens me.