Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court made it easier for defendants to challenge eyewitness testimony on the grounds that it may be flawed. Research shows that about one-third of the witnesses who pick out suspects choose the wrong person. We look at recommendations for eyewitness testimony protocol, and at some of the reforms already in the works in California.

Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony 31 August,2011forum

Gary Wells, professor of psychology at Iowa State University
Robert Weisberg, professor of law at Stanford and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center
Karyn Sinunu-Towery, assistant district attorney for Santa Clara County

  • Andrea

    I was the victim of a crime but because of my experience working at the publisher of Taryn Simon’s book The Innocence Project I was well aware of the lack of reliability of eyewitness identification. When I was shown a photo lineup years later I almost immediately identified one of the men as the attacker, however the detective in the case became excited and basically blew any chance I had of looking at the lineup without any outside influence. As a photographer I could see that the lineup itself was also suspect—the backgrounds of the other photographs were darker, the faces of the other men were darker, etc. 

    When I balked at signing anything the detective tried everything he could to convince me to change my mind. In the end I don’t think it even matters because there was DNA evidence. I shudder to think what a non-photographer or someone with less resolve than myself would do in such a situation.

    • Andrea

      *Actually Taryn Simon’s book is The Innocents. Very fine work. 🙂

  • Kitty

    I’d like to hear the guests’ comments on the sketches done when an event has happened, and the police are looking for someone that fits that description – how reliable are those?


  • Chrisco

    Good program!

  • Fay

    48 hours has done several excellent shows on how police have twisted witness testimony to accuse the innocent. I think today’s show did not address police misconduct head on:

    “So how accurate is eyewitness testimony? As Lesley Stahl found out firsthand, memory is malleable and can easily be influenced and corrupted.;lst;4

    “How accurate is visual memory?”

  • Karena

    I have got to comment on Barry Schecks past. He is currently part of The Innocence Project. I find this so ironic. We should all remember that he was a defense attorney for O.J. Simpson. He vehemently defended him. Let’s remember that the evidence against Simpson was monumental and yet Scheck defended him. Simpson was lucky that he went to trial during a time of extreme unrest between african americans and police in LA. which, no doubt, influenced the community and jury.
    I have very little respect for Barry Scheck. As I see it he sold his soul when he defended OJ who from my clinical perspective as a mental health worker was a sociopath w/o any doubt. This trial and result was important bc it showed the world that an evil person can get away with murder. 

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