Psychological research shows that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate, therefore it should not be used in the criminal justice system. Discuss.
This paper will consider eye witness testimony and its place in convicting accused criminals. Psychology online (2013) defines “eye witness testimony” as a statement from a person who has witnessed a crime, and is capable of communicating what they have seen, to a court of law under oath. Eye witness testimonies are used to convict accused criminals due to the first hand nature of the eye witnesses’ observations. There are however many faults within this system of identification. Characteristics of the crime is the first issue that will be discussed in this paper, and the flaws that have been identified. The second issue to be discussed will be the stress impact and the inability to correctly identify the accused in a violent or weapon focused crime. The third issue to be discussed is inter racial identification and the problems faced when this becomes a prominent issue. The fourth issue will be time lapse, meaning, the time between the crime and the eye witness making a statement and how the memory can be misconstrued in this time frame. To follow this will be the issue of how much trust jurors-who have no legal training-put on to the eye witness testimony, which may be faltered. This paper references the works of primarily Wells and Olsen (2003) and Rodin (1987) and Schmechel et al. (2006) it will be argued that eye witness testimony is not always accurate, due to many features; inter racial identification, characteristics of the crime, response latency, and line up procedures therefore this paper will confirm that eyewitness testimonies should not be utilised in the criminal justice system.
The first issue discussed in the paper is the characteristics of the event the eye witness is testifying in regards to. Wells and Olsen (2003) state that there are many factors that optimise the witnesses ability to be able to identify the accused. However, there is one that shall be discussed in depth; the amount of attention the eye witness gave at the time of the crime.
Wells and Olsen (2003) Identify that the amount of attention the witness gave to the crime was judged to be more “critical” to the accuracy of identifying the accused.
To support this argument Wells and Olsen (2003) refer to Leippe et al. (1978) in which 4 groups of unsuspecting people were exposed with varying degrees of knowledge to a staged theft. Each group was given different information. Witnesses were (1) told that the package contained something of value or (2) something trivial. Additionally, some witnesses were made aware of (3) the value beforehand and (4) some after the accused had fled. All had equal opportunity to view the thief. The results recorded showed that those who knew of the value of the stolen item beforehand were significantly more accurate. Proving that although they had significant opportunity to view the...