WASHINGTON – Every year, more than 75,000 eyewitnesses identify suspects in criminal investigations. Numerous studies have suggested, eyewitness identifications are wrong about a third of the time. Mistaken identifications have led to wrongful convictions as “there is almost nothing more convincing, than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says, ‘That’s the one!’” (Watkins v. Sowders, 449 U.S. 341 (1981), dissent, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. quoting from a 1979 leading study by Elizabeth F. Loftus.
In November 2011, the Supreme Court will return to the question of what the Constitution has to say about the use of eyewitness evidence. The case, Perry v. New Hampshire, is concerned with whether judges must take a hard look at all identifications arising from suggestive circumstances or only those involving official misconduct. The last time the court took a hard look at this question was in 1977 with Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98. Since then, the scientific understanding of human memory has been transformed.
For the full article see: 34 Years Later, Supreme Court Will Revisit Eyewitness IDs By Adam Liptak
For more information see:
State of NJ v. Larry R. Henderson (2008), a pioneering report from a special master appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The special master, Geoffrey Gaulkin, suggested that memory should be treated “as a form of trace evidence: a fragment collected at the scene of a crime, like a fingerprint or blood smear, whose integrity and reliability need to be monitored and assessed from the point of its recovery to its ultimate presentation at trial.”
Court takes up case on eyewitness identification – http://bit.ly/s1a0je by Mark Sherman Associated Press / November 2, 2011.
- Supreme Court backs eyewitness identification with 8-1 ruling (cnn.com)
- Supreme Court rules against man convicted by eyewitness ID (seattletimes.nwsource.com)