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.
It is evident that eyewitness identification cannot always be trusted. Under times of distress, you may not have a clear observation of the suspect. DNA evidence has now been another factor in finding evidence in
Many news stories, reports, and books fairly describe wrongful convictions in detail, although not all of these wrongful convictions resulted in formal exonerations. Most witness misidentifications were made in good faith with the witness attempting to help officials find the real perpetrator of a crime, although this explanation does not examine the conditions under which these identifications were made. Some of the conditions that need to be taken into account are whether a photo was shown to a victim by the police before a lineup, whether the identification by the witness was hesitant, or if the victim was urged to be positive when testifying. Additionally, was the identification from the same race; was there prejudice, how much distance and duration of interaction was there between victim and suspect prior to identification and what were the viewing conditions; darkness or day light? With so many factors involved, it should be obvious to some why eye-witness misidentification can happen so frequently. Moreover, the testimony of an eyewitness relies on how accurate their memory of an event actually is. 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 Misidentification,”
The principle in law that one is innocent until proven guilty has created much discourse. There are those who feel that the moment that one is arrested, there is reasonable belief that they committed the crime. However, there are those who feel that just as the principle states, one is, and should be taken as a victim and the outcome could be either way: guilty or not guilty. In fact, this argument is supported by the many cases of malicious prosecutions and mistaken identities.
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. Her early papers concluded that leading questions could contaminate or distort a witness’s memory (Loftus,
For the past two decades, “The Innocence Project” with the help of updated science methods have worked relentlessly to get innocent people out of prison. Through DNA testing, they have been able to find new evidence that have freed hundreds of prisoners who were wrongfully convicted. Other factors such as eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, government misconduct, and inadequate defense also played keys roles in the wrongful convictions. The case that I would I would like to highlight today is that of, Johnnie Lindsey. Johnnie Lindsey was a 30-year old laundry worker who was falsely accused of rape. On August 25, 1981, a white woman reported that she raped while riding her bike at White Rock Lake in Dallas. She told police that
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
Eyewitness accounts play a huge role in general in trials and verdicts, but may be unreliable many times, with certain views placed on evidence provided by children. Unreliability may arise from not being able to recount the identity of the accused, the actions and speech occurring during that time, the relationship of individuals towards the person in question, and many
According to the Innocence Project one of the greatest causes of wrongful conviction is due to eyewitness misidentification. They state that 72% of cases where defendants have been exonerated eyewitness misidentification played a role. Even though eyewitness testimony has been proven inaccurate numerous times, it can still be the decisive evidence in a court of law. This is because the law views the human memory as a camcorder which can record and repeat whatever it sees. In reality the memory can be affected by numerous outside stimuli and previous beliefs.
The investigation in this case was not very extensive. Some evidence collected was not tested for DNA and it is possible that both eye-witnesses had alternative motives for giving their testimonies and for identifying Mr. Nealy. At the very least it seems that they both had serious credibility problems. However, the jury in Mr. Nealy trial heard the entire case, including both eye-witnesses’ and found their testimony to be credible.
When reviewing the issues associated with the criminal justice system in the United States, wrongful convictions are becoming a serious one that society as a whole needs to be aware of. While there are a countless factors that can contribute to a wrongful conviction, there are five distinct ones that are the leading causes in wrongful convictions: the adversarial process, Eyewitness identification, misconduct and errors regarding forensic evidence, interrogations and confessions, and jailhouse snitches/informants.
This research looks at type of eyewitness identification called CMEI, which claims that certain crimes will instantly stimulate precise stereotypes about a suspects looks. Dependence of this relies on how much the suspect looks or does not look like themselves, and thus the eyewitness may recall the suspect looking like them or not at all (Osborne & Davis, 2014). Much research done previously also supports the idea of CMEI, and therefor will support the current research.
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). All of these components lead to eyewitness error and essentially false incrimination. Secondly, another factor that can contribute to wrongful conviction is the use of jailhouse informants. Campbell & Denov (2016), describe jailhouse informants as prisoner informants that “provide information to law enforcement officials in exchange for money, property, or the promise of leniency in sentencing” (p. 229). This can be problematic because jurors place value on the
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.
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).