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Published by menonharsh
Eyewitness identification.
Eyewitness identification.

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Published by: menonharsh on May 12, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Life isn’t perfect. Neither are we. We strive to be perfect andachieve excellence, but the truth is that even if some of us may getclose, a majority of us won’t get there. The truth hurts, but the basicunderlying fact is that human beings are flawed. This truth finds applications in many places. One such place isthe empire of crime. Even if every criminal in the world were arrested,we’d never be able to stop crimes from happening. A law-abidingcitizen may not be a threat to the society today, but there’s no tellingwhat’s going to happen tomorrow. He might be the same for the rest of his life or might go on to commit a murder after having discovered hiswife cheating on him. The fact that crime exists in the first place showsthat we are far from perfect. The world of crime is ugly, but the judicial system used tobring justice to society and make criminals pay is not up to the mark. There are flaws in the very basis of it and one of those flaws is almost-blind belief in eye-witness identification. Eyewitness identification of acriminal suspect can be one of the most influential factors in a criminalinvestigation. Two consequences can result from an eyewitnessaccount that is accepted by an investigation, and subsequently a court
of law. First, the eyewitness's information could lead to the removalfrom society of a dangerous offender. Secondly, “a false identificationcould possibly lead to the incarceration of an innocent individual whilethe guilty party remains as a risk to the community” (Decaire 1).For the purpose of explanation, let’s consider a scenario. Placeyourself in the position of one of the members of the jury. You are in acourtroom and a trial is in progress. A person is being tried forhomicide and the public prosecutor brings up an eye-witness. The eye-witness is supposed to identify whom he saw commit the crime. Theeye-witness thinks for a while and then points at the defendantimplicating him.As a member of the jury, you tend to give the eye-witness morecredit and his account seems to have more value than the others. Thisis a serious flaw, because in truth the eye-witness is no better than anyother witness.Eyewitness identification is a process involving recognition andrecall. Human memory is susceptible to change of information. Anexample of this is the misinformation effect in which “a person whowitnesses an event gets his recollections all distorted when exposed tonew and misleading information about the event later”(Lohn). This is
caused primarily when we talk to others about the event, when we aresuggestively interrogated or when we read or view media coverageabout the event. Sometimes we confuse our imagination and realitywhich is a phenomenon called “Imagination Inflation”(Lohn). This canbe a source of error too.As far as the recognition goes, people tend to have a riskyresponse bias, which means that they guess a lot when makingidentifications. Our recognition abilities are poor. “Psychological studiesindicate that only about thirty percent of what we observe isretrievable” (Coon).Often the interviewer getting information from the witnessaffects the witness. Put yourself in the place of the public prosecutornow and let’s say you had a bias against the defendant. You would tryto mould the eyewitnessaccount by playing on the fact that theeyewitness is not too sure about what he saw. For a true account, thewitness should be allowed to tell their story and not what you wantthem to say.Besides external factors, there are internal factors whichinfluence the witness too. The witness’ prior knowledge, experienceand feeling should be taken into account as well as whether they have

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