The Problem With Eyewitness Testimony Essay

The Problem With Eyewitness Testimony Essay

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Eyewitness testimony has long been viewed as important evidence in court cases. The general population believes eyewitness identification more than any other evidence, even if the witness account is conflicting with the other evidence presented. Studies show that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and yet it is still considered the most important form of evidence. People think that if a person says they saw something then it must have happened. Currently there are no universal guidelines on how to obtain and present such evidence. The purpose of this paper is to explain why eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and discuss the proposed guidelines on how law enforcement agencies should gather identifications, as well how the courts should handle such evidence. The author will begin by providing a history of eyewitness testimony and the studies that have been done regarding the validity of eyewitness identifications. Next, she will discuss eyewitness identifications and why they are unreliable. Finally, she will address the proposed universal guidelines for law enforcement agencies and the courts.
Eyewitness testimony is “the provision of formal evidence on the basis of events experienced by the party” (Towl). History has shown that eyewitness identifications can often be unreliable. Since as far back as biblical times, people have questioned the validity of witnesses. The issue is even addressed in the US Constitution, which states that “two witnesses to the same overt act” are needed for a conviction of treason. Scientists have been disputing the credibility of eyewitness testimony, with experiments dating back to the early 20th century. In 1908, Harvard professor Hugo Münsterberg warned against dangero...


... middle of paper ...


... all they can to reduce the risk of misidentifications. Misidentifications not only damage innocent lives, but also hinder investigations. While police are focusing on the wrong person, the real perpetrator has gotten away.



Works Cited


"The Innocence Project." The Innocence Project. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

Jost, Kenneth. Eyewitness Testimony: Could New Safeguards Prevent Misidentifications? Washington, D.C.: CQ, 2011. 861-73. CQ Researcher. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

Spielberger, Charles Donald. "Eyewitness Identification." Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Oxford: Elsevier Academic, 2004. N. pag. Credo Reference. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

Towl, Graham J. "Eyewitness Testimony." Dictionary of Forensic Psychology. Cullompton, Devon, UK: Willan, 2008. N. pag. Credo Reference. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

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