Essay On Eyewitness Testimony

702 Words3 Pages
On May 17, 1982, in Shreveport, Louisiana, Calvin Willis was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted of brutally beating and raping a child based on three eyewitness identifications of him at trial. The case against him was substantively weak: there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, circumstantial evidence indicated that the intruder was not him, and his pregnant wife testified at trial that he was home with her at the time. But, eyewitness testimony is viscerally powerful evidence, and the jury found Calvin guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Twenty-two years later, after DNA evidence conclusively excluded Calvin from having committed the crime, he…show more content…
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction. It played a role in 75% of convictions that have been overturned since 1989 based on DNA evidence. Thousands of studies have confirmed that eyewitness testimony is shockingly inaccurate, with a mistaken identification rate of roughly 40%. This has led several courts to lament that eyewitness testimony is “hopelessly unreliable.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has even concluded that “mistaken eyewitness identifications are responsible for more wrongful convictions than all other causes…show more content…
Jurors may spot a witness that is trying to fool them, and diligent cross-examination can be an especially effective tool for ferreting out lies. But, jurors will almost certainly not spot a witness who believes their statements are the truth, but has fooled themselves. When testimony is plausible, how can jurors tell whether it is true or false? Jurors should know the factors that impact eyewitness reliability so that they can make more informed decisions about the trustworthiness of such testimony. Moreover, jurors routinely attribute far greater weight to eyewitness testimony than is prudent, making expert testimony on the issue all the more critical. Louisiana is currently one of two states to apply a per se bar on admitting expert testimony to inform jurors of factors related to eyewitness reliability. This paper contends that expert testimony regarding eyewitness reliability (expert eyewitness testimony) is an effective way of improving jury determinations and should be admissible in Louisiana at the discretion of trial court judges for that
Open Document