Mistakes in eyewitness identifications occur in 75 percent of convictions overturned by DNA evidence nationwide, according to the Innocence Project, which has helped free 267 people.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty typical, even in this day and age, for police departments to not even have written procedures for conducting eyewitness identifications,” Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia who recently wrote the book Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, told Miller-McCune Magazine.
“It’s somewhat shocking, given how much we know after three decades of pretty intensive laboratory research, looking at eyewitness testimony and the lessons from so many of these cases,” Garrett said.
According to Miller-McCune, Virginia and North Carolina each passed laws following high-profile exonerations in those states that standardized eyewitness identification procedures. Attorneys general in other states, such as Wisconsin, and police chiefs in various cities, such as Philadelphia, have enacted what the U.S. Department of Justice and the Innocence Project consider model reforms. So far, nothing similar has occurred in Washington, where many police agencies don’t even have detailed written guidelines for eyewitness identifications.
Decades of research, led most notably by Gary Wells, a distinguished psychologist in the field of criminal justice, show that the human memory does not recall images like a video camera, reported Miller-McCune. Memory is much more malleable and can be strongly influenced by suggestion, no matter how inadvertent, Wells and others have found.
To read more: http://www.miller-mccune.com/legal-affairs/eyewitness-ids-can-be-made-better-with-research-34084/
Michael Thomas Gargiulo, Pretrial Hearing 42
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