This paper will consider eyewitness testimony and its place in convicting accused criminals. Psychology online (2013) defines “eyewitness 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 eyewitnesses observations, there are however many faults within this system of identification. Perspective 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 time lapse, meaning, the time between the incident and 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 eyewitness testimony, which may be faltered. The last topic to be discussed in the paper will be the procedure for identification of the accused criminal by the eye witness, and the issues that can be encountered during this process. This paper references the works of primarily Wells and Olsen (2003) and Loftus (2006) and Penrod (1995) it will be argued that eyewitness 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.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CRIME
The first issue discussed in the paper is the characteristics of the event the eyewitness 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 eyewitness 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 culprit, each group placed different value on the crime and therefore varying levels of attention.
From this it can be seen that, once the populous is aware of something’s value they are more able to accurately identify the...