The Reliability of Eyewitness Testimoney

Topics: Eyewitness identification, Psychology, Criminal justice Pages: 4 (1572 words) Published: October 12, 2013
In today’s criminal justice system, eyewitness testimony is one of the most commonly used pieces of evidence by a jury. It plays a crucial role in criminal court casesas it is relied on heavily for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Eyewitness testimony refers to an account given by a person of an event they have witnessed (McLeod, 2009).Whether a person is convicted of a crime or not can ultimately depend on how reliable a person’s recollection of a crime is. When correct, eye witness testimony can be helpful in solving many crimes. However, when incorrect it can cause to severe damage and can lead to innocent citizens being convicted of crimes they did not commit.There is empirical evidence looking at the influence of three main factors (individual differences, situational factors and external factors) on the eyewitness’ memory and therefore it should not be trusted in a legal setting.Researchers have found that “more innocent citizens are wrongfully tried and convicted on the basis of eyewitness evidence in Great Britain and North America than by any other factor within the legal system" (Smith, Stinson, & Prosser, 2004, p. 146). Psychologists (Loftus & Palmer, 1974)were particularly interested in the impact of the external factors such as questioning techniques and how certain information is conveyed can influence an eyewitness’ recollection of an event. Other researchers (Clifford & Scott, 1978) examined how situational factors such as the time delay before identification, type of crime and time of day can all influence how a person perceives a crime. This research may be considered valuable to society and the law as it could lead to improvements of how evidence is viewed in the criminal justice system and the way suspects are trialled to prevent further innocent people being falsely convicted. Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable simply due to the mental processes involved when acquiring, retaining and attempting to retrieve information (Loftus,...

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