Eyewitness Testimony

Could new safeguards prevent misidentifications?


Eyewitness testimony is often essential to criminal prosecutions, but witnesses sometimes misidentify an innocent person. Misidentifications played a part in three-fourths of the 273 wrongful convictions confirmed over the past two decades by DNA exonerations. Eyewitness scientists have long known of the unreliability of witness identifications, as confirmed through experiments dating back to the early 20th century, but police have been slow in changing ID procedures. The Supreme Court established limited safeguards against unreliable identifications in the 1960s and '70s, but experts say the rulings have had little impact and may actually mislead jurors in determining the accuracy of an identification. Now, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered stricter standards on identification testimony in the state's courts, including special instructions on the risk of ...

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