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The Unreliability Of Eyewitness Testimony In Children

2963 words - 12 pages

Memory is not reliable; memory can be altered and adjusted. Memory is stored in the brain just like files stored in a cabinet, you store it, save it and then later on retrieve and sometimes even alter and return it. In doing so that changes the original data that was first stored. Over time memory fades and becomes distorted, trauma and other events in life can cause the way we store memory to become faulty. So when focusing on eyewitnesses, sometimes our memory will not relay correct information due to different cues, questioning, and trauma and so forth, which makes eyewitness even harder to rely on. Yet it is still applied in the criminal justice system.
Eyewitnesses play a critical role in criminal justice systems throughout the world and are often essential in identifying, charging, and ultimately convicting perpetrators of crimes.
Jurors tend to over-believe, or are at least greatly influenced by, eyewitness evidence
(Kennedy & Haygood, 1992; Williams & Loftus, 1994), which is worrying considering the growing and substantial body of evidence from laboratory studies, field studies, and the criminal justice system supporting the conclusion that eyewitnesses frequently make mistakes (Cutler & Penrod, 1995; Huff, 1987; Huff, Rattner, & Sagarin, 1986; Innocence Project, 2009; Wells, Small, Penrod, Malpass, Fulero, & Brimacombe, 1998). According to a number of studies, eyewitness misidentifications are the most common cause of wrongful convictions (Huff, Rattner, & Sagarin, 1986; Wells et al., 1998; Yarmey, 2003) and, through the use of forensic DNA testing, have been found to account for more convictions of innocent individuals than all other factors combined (Innocence Project, 2009; Wells, Memon, & Penrod, 2006).
The capability of young children to provide accurate eyewitness testimony has been the subject of increasing attention by social scientists and members of the legal profession (Davies, 1996). Cases relying on evidence provided by child witnesses, such as physical or sexual abuse cases have helped bring to the fore issues pertaining to the accuracy and reliability of such eyewitness reports (Ceci & Bruck, 1993). As a result there has been a related increase of scientific studies of children’s eyewitness competences, with results indicating that very young children perform significantly worse than younger adults. In line-up identification studies, young children perform at a similar level to young adults when the line-up presented contains the actual culprit but commit more false identifications when it does not (Pozzulo & Lindsay, 1998).
There are number of reasons behind why a child will provide more incorrect eyewitness information, some of these reason are: misleading suggestions by the interviewer, false memories, sexual or some other form of abuse, the presence of someone in authority such as uniform police, attention or lies. Many things may render the allegations made by children as unreliable.
First, A number of...

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