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Eyewitness Testimony Essay

1807 words - 8 pages

Eyewitness testimony has been used for many centuries and continues to be a part of our criminal justice system. Although, there has been many controversy debates on whether to allow the continuation of these testimonies in court, and allow it to be used as evidence. Eyewitness testimony can either be harmful or useful for an individual. We must fully analysis and see what certain factors (psychological, and age wise) come into the equation before coming up with final conclusions.

A case study titled Problems with Eyewitness Testimony talks about a famous Canadian case in which a 14 years old boy named Steven Truscott, was convicted in 1959 of rape and murder of a 12 years old, Lynne Harper. It was later found that the conviction was based upon unreliable police investigation, 10 years old Philip Burns, (eyewitness) contributed greatly to the conviction. Police and other law enforcement figures failed to question Burns’ recollection of that night. It was known that at the time of the crime, Burns failed to remember whether he had in fact seen both the suspect and the victim on the road. Police argued in Burn’s favor in order to convict Truscott. Burns, as well failed to remember seeing other people on the road with him. These very people reported seeing Burns. (Bain p.351)

A number of factors may also affect our retrieval of the event. One such factor is whether or not a person is given recall or recognition questions…. An open-ended question such as “What specific details can you recall from the night in question?” would be an example of a recall question, whereas a recognition question might be, “Was the accused wearing a blue jacket or a red jacket on the night in question?” (Bain p. 351)

Recognition questions open up options for the eyewitness to make two errors. One of them is post-event information; in which we start to question our own minds. On top of questioning ourselves, there is anxiety and stress being added from being in front the judge, and jury. When the eyewitness is asked a recognition question, this opens up the option of memory modification. A 10-year-old boy will unfortunately become a victim quickly to these errors. Taking into consideration that his recollection of that night wasn’t any useful in court. When given the option, it is likely he will go with the option that makes seems justified.

Does this mean that all children have faulty memories? Absolutely not, but their age does have an influence. According to child development expert, Dr. Steven Ceci. Children’s intake on memories is different from adults. It factors down to the child’s past knowledge of things and whether they can extract real memories rather than created false ones. Knowing this we still can’t deem a child’s memory to be as credible as an adults. A case in 2002, where a 5 year old girl was abducted in front of her home in Stanton, California. Sarah Ahn, a 6-year-old child was the only witness to the crime. “Ceci also said there are times when a...

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