Accuracy Of Eyewitness Testimony Essay

2054 words - 8 pages

“Wrongfully convicted at age 25, Calvin Johnson received a life sentence for the rape of a Georgia woman after four different women identified him. Exonerated in 1999, he walked out of prison a 41-year old man. The true rapist has never been found, (The Justice Project).” Eyewitness testimony is highly relied on by judges, but it can not always be trusted. Approximately 48% of wrong convictions are because of mistaken identity by eyewitnesses (The Psychology of Eyewitness Testimony). After we discovered this information, we became curious as to whether in a testimony, the eyewitness’ memory is more reliable after a short period of time or after a longer period of time? According to previous experiments, eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Likely, we want to know if a testimony that is given two to three hours after a crime has taken place is more reliable than a testimony given after a longer period of time.

After witnessing a crime, eyewitnesses are asked for a testimony to find the culprit. Most of the time these testimonies are highly relied on. However, according to physiological evidence 33% of the time these testimonies are incorrect and cause an innocent victim, like Johnson, to end up in jail for no reason (Simply Psychology). There are many influencing factors as to why an eyewitness may not remember what they witnessed. These factors include stress causing a negative recollection of the crime, poor conditions in which the crime occurred; so what the eyewitness sees isn't always correct,and seeing something for a shorter period of time results in less reliable identification and recall. There is also the post-event misinformation when the eyewitness’ memory becomes defective because of things they heard or saw after the crime take place (Buckhout). Some more factors are the presence of weapons at the crime (because they can intensify stress and distract witnesses),use of a disguise by the suspect such as a mask or wig, or a racial difference between the witness and the suspect (Scientific American). Some eyewitnesses say they saw the crime take place though they didn’t. They lie because they want a sense of accomplishment in society. Others trim the truth to make it seem like they picked the ‘right’ suspect. Other people, false facts, and sounds can also cause an eyewitness’ memory to become distorted (About). For a testimony to be considered accurate 80-90% of the questions asked should be answered correctly by the eyewitness (About). Based on the research we have gathered on eyewitness testimony, in general,it has some very unreliable factors to it.
We had come upon many psychologist experiments,studies, and reports on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. As we were doing research, we learned many important facts about eyewitness accuracy through information collected by others. Aforementioned, racial differences and stereotypes are factors in the accuracy of an eyewitness testimony. A study at Harvard University proved these...

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