Get Instant Help From 5000+ Experts For
question

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing:Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

And Improve Your Grades
myassignmenthelp.com
loader
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Guaranteed Higher Grade!
Free Quote
wave

Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony

Question:

Discuss about the Witness Statements and their Unreliability.

The major argument contained in this paper is that psychologists have a point when they denote that eye witness statements are not always reliable. Eye witness testimony plays an important role in the criminal justice process. This is because the conviction of a suspect will depend on the reliability and the accuracy of an eye witness, when he provides his testimony to the court of law (Vrij, Hope & Fisher, 2014). However, there is a problem regarding eye witness testimonies. The problem lies on whether their statement of facts is accurate and credible. A large number of wrongful convictions have relied on the testimony of eye witnesses, some of which have been proved to be false. Some of the reasons that an eye witness testimony cannot be reliable is if the memory of the witness is low, poor vision and old age.                                           

Note that, some people who are over 70 years of age normally have poor memory and vision, and this affects their capability to provide reliable and accurate statements of facts. It is based on these factors that psychologists have come up with the assertion that eye witness testimonies are not always reliable, and extensive reliance on them can lead to a mistrial.

A number of studies have been carried out on this concept of human memory, and the capability of an individual to provide an accurate testimony in a court of law (Vrij, Hope & Fisher, 2014). One of the psychologists who has carried out extensive research on the human memory, and its propensity to recognize erroneous occurrences and details is a researcher by the name of Elizabeth Loftus. Most of her experiments focused on the capability of third parties to introduce false facts and events in the memory of a witness (Laney & Loftus, 2016). These experiments were carried out in the 1970s, and the results were startling and surprising. For instance, in one of the experiments, Elizabeth Loftus showed a stop or a yield sign to the subjects of the study. This is when they were driving a car. When a question was asked on the yield sign that the participants saw, the examiners falsely introduced a stop sign.


From this study, the conclusion was that people can produce an answer based on the false images that are depicted to them. Loftus also carried out an experiment of a car accident (Nahari, Vrij & Fisher, 2016). Two terms were introduced when asking the participants questions on how fast the cars were travelling before causing an accident. The first term was hit and the second term was smashed. The population, who were questioned by the use of the term smashed, provided an answer of seeing a broken glass (Laney & Loftus, 2016). This answer was inaccurate. Basing on these experiments, it is possible to denote that a third party can interfere with the memory of a witness, through the introduction of false cues. This will definitely make the testimony to be inaccurate and false. Submission of false testimonies to a court of law would definitely lead to an injustice, if the judge relies on such a testimony to convict the suspect.             

Psychological Experiments on Memory and Eyewitness Testimony

Moreover, eye witnesses do not have to rely on third parties for purposes of distorting their memories. They can distort their own memories, without the help of police officers or any third parties (Vrij, Hope & Fisher, 2014). This is basically because they have some element of bias towards certain conditions or events. Note that, people normally retell certain events with a purpose on mind (Nahari, Vrij & Fisher, 2016). On this note, any act of storytelling is always aimed at a specific listener. Because of this fact, the eye witness always engages in the process of editing the information he wants to provide, so that it may fit the context in which he is narrating the story (Laney & Loftus, 2016). For instance, if a witness has a perception of a particular perpetrator in a negative manner, and identifies him as such, he might be unable to provide an accurate testimony, based on his reconstruction of memory that emanates out of the bias that he has towards the perpetrator. Thus, because of the capability of bias to affect the eye witness testimony, chances are high that the information provided might be incorrect.  

In a study carried out by psychologists from the University of Virginia on the reliability of eye witness testimonies: they found out that extensive reliance on eye witness testimonies can result to a mistrial. On a specific note, if the court is relying on a person who is over 60 years of age. In this study, the population of study was aged people between 60 to 80 years, and college going students (Nahari, Vrij & Fisher, 2016). From the results of this study, psychologists found out that the aged people were poor eye witnesses compared to the college going students. This result is not surprising, given the fact that the aged people normally have poor eye sights and vision, and this may result to their inability to accurately witness the criminal activity that occurred and to provide a correct identity of the person who committed the act.


Psychologists criticize the reliance of visions for purposes of providing a testimony in the courts of law. For instance, tests suggest that a person with very good eyesight may not have the capability of accurately witnessing an event that occurs 10 feet away from him (Vrij, Hope & Fisher, 2014). This is because he may not accurately see the eye lashes of the suspect or maintain an eye contact, and this is crucial in the identification of a suspect. Moreover, research indicates that at 200 feet, the eyes of a suspect may become blurred, irrespective of whether they have a good eye sight or not. It is far much worse when the suspect is at 500 feet, and this is basically because they will not have the capability of distinguishing the facial features of the suspect, limiting their capability to accurately identify them.   

Measures Taken by the Courts to Minimize Risks of False Testimony

Despite these weaknesses of eye witness testimonies, Burrows & Powell (2014) explains that majority of murder charges are always determined by the testimony of witnesses who were more than 450 feet away from the scene of crime. Another finding from this study by professionals from the University of Virginia that is of interest to psychologists relates to how the aged people behave when giving testimonies in the courts of law (Weisweiler, 2014). This behavior touches on the confidence and adamance of the aged people during the process of giving testimony. This confidence normally makes the judges to be convinced on the credibility and reliability of the statements provided by the aged people, and may ultimately result to a mistrial or a wrong conviction. To avoid such a scenario from happening, it is important for the court to always ensure that there are other ways and methods that can be used to examine the credibility of the eye witness, and the facts that he is providing.               

This is one of the major reasons that make lawyers to seek and analyze the history of the witness for purposes of ascertaining whether they are people whom the courts can rely upon to give an accurate and correct statement. Some of the facts that lawyers normally seek to find out, about a witness is their criminal history and whether they have issues pertaining to dishonesty of problems with the law (Fisher, Vrij & Leins, 2013). Chances are high that the courts may not believe an inconsistent testimony that is provided by a person with a suspicious or criminal past. However, if the testimony is accompanied by a scientific proof, chances are high that the courts will take the testimony serious, and use it to determine the fate of the suspect who is under trial.


Another factor that makes eye witness testimonies to be unreliable deals with the issue of stress. Note that, when a person suffers from stress, his mind is under pressure and is prone to errors (Volbert & Steller, 2014). Research indicates that stress has the capability of affecting the account of an eye witness. Furthermore, when the eye witness suffers from stress, he may be unable to accurately pick a suspect from a police lineup. Note that, it is unethical for police officers to induce the identification of a suspect. However, when the process is not handled professionally, and the eye witness is suffering from stress or depression, chances are high that the police will help top induce the identification of the suspect, which may result to a wrong identification.

The Importance of Using Scientific Evidence to Support Eye Witness Testimony

Yuan et al (2016) denotes that a photographic lineup can be done through the use of a number of ways. An exampling is by excluding a suspect from the mug shot, and providing the photos to the witness to try and identify if the suspect is there. Yuan et al (2016) calls this type of identification as simultaneous lineup. This process has a number of disadvantages. For instance, Vrij (2015) denotes that one of the disadvantages is that chances of errors are high in this process if the suspect is suffering from stress.                   

This is further compounded by the fact that the eye witness may choose a look alike picture, if the image of the suspect is not found amongst the picture set that is provided by the police. In the view of Howe & Knott (2015), photographic lineup policies have been developed for purposes of minimizing the risks of choosing a wrong suspect in the lineup. This is because of the requirement that a police officer should notify a witness that a suspect may not be in the photos provided to him. Police officers can also allow an eye witness to view photos one at a time. This type of suspect identification has the capability of being accurate, since it produces less false identification. 


Richter (2015) denotes that the development of such policies is an indication that the eye witness account may be unreliable; thus, the need of supporting them with other types of evidence, such as scientific evidence. Note that, people who are used in the police lineups together with suspects are called fillers (Steblay, Wells & Douglass, 2014). The use of these people who do not resemble a suspect can easily make an eye witness to identify them, because the suspects stand out.  Moreover, psychologists explain that when a person is of the same race, it is easier for the eye witness to identify them. This is as opposed to when the suspect comes from a different race to that of the eye witness.       

Another important factor that may affect the capability of a suspect to provide an accurate account of the crime or to accurately identify the victim is whether there was the presence of a weapon. The reasons why this may affect the eye witness account is because focus is always on the weapon, as opposed to the identity of the suspect (Hahn, Oaksford & Harris, 2013). Moreover, leading questions that are asked by police officers may affect the testimony of a witness, and this is the reason that makes most judges to prevent the police or an attorney from asking certain questions.              

Finally, eye witness testimonies have a number of weaknesses; thus, the courts of law should not rely on them entirely, while coming up with a decision about the fate of a suspect. One of the weaknesses is the fact that a person may have poor vision, and this may limit his capability to provide an accurate account of what happened. Moreover, factors such as stress, depression, presence of a weapon and poor suspect identification procedures may affect the capability of a witness to provide an accurate account of what actually happened in the scene of a crime. It is based on these factors that psychologists are right, when they assert that reliance on witnesses may lead to a mistrial.

References

Burrows, K. S., & Powell, M. (2014). Prosecutors' recommendations for improving child witness statements about sexual abuse. Policing and Society, 24(2), 189-207.

Fisher, R. P., Vrij, A., & Leins, D. A. (2013). Does testimonial inconsistency indicate memory inaccuracy and deception? Beliefs, empirical research, and theory. In Applied issues in investigative interviewing, eyewitness memory, and credibility assessment (pp. 173-189). Springer New York.   

Hahn, U., Oaksford, M., & Harris, A. J. (2013). Testimony and argument: A Bayesian perspective. In Bayesian argumentation (pp. 15-38). Springer Netherlands. 

Howe, M. L., & Knott, L. M. (2015). The fallibility of memory in judicial processes: Lessons from the past and their modern consequences. Memory, 23(5), 633-656.   

Laney, C., & Loftus, E. F. (2016). Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Biases. Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI: https://doi. org/nobaproject. com.

Nahari, G., Vrij, A., & Fisher, R. P. (2014). Exploiting liars' verbal strategies by examining the verifiability of details. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 19(2), 227-239.

Richter, L. L. (2015). Posnerian Hearsay: Slaying the Discretion Dragon. Fla. L. Rev., 67, 1861.

Steblay, N. K., Wells, G. L., & Douglass, A. B. (2014). The eyewitness post identification feedback effect 15 years later: Theoretical and policy implications.

Yuan, X., Mei, Q., Zhou, S., & Ma, X. (2016). Reliable and robust entanglement witness. Physical Review A, 93(4), 042317.

Volbert, R., & Steller, M. (2014). Is This Testimony Truthful, Fabricated, or Based on False Memory?. European Psychologist.  

Vrij, A. (2015). Verbal Lie Detection tools: Statement validity analysis, reality monitoring and scientific content analysis. Detecting deception: Current challenges and cognitive approaches, 3-35.

Vrij, A., Hope, L., & Fisher, R. P. (2014). Eliciting reliable information in investigative interviews. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(1), 129-136.

Weisweiler, J. (2014). Unreliable Witness: Failings of the Narrative in Ammianus Marcellinus. Literature and Society in the Fourth Century AD: Performing Paidea, Constructing the Present, Presenting the Self (Leiden: Brill), 103-133.
Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

My Assignment Help. (2018). Are Eye Witness Testimonies Always Reliable? A Psychological Perspective. Retrieved from https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/witness-statements-and-their-unreliability.

"Are Eye Witness Testimonies Always Reliable? A Psychological Perspective." My Assignment Help, 2018, https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/witness-statements-and-their-unreliability.

My Assignment Help (2018) Are Eye Witness Testimonies Always Reliable? A Psychological Perspective [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/witness-statements-and-their-unreliability
[Accessed 24 July 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Are Eye Witness Testimonies Always Reliable? A Psychological Perspective' (My Assignment Help, 2018) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/witness-statements-and-their-unreliability> accessed 24 July 2024.

My Assignment Help. Are Eye Witness Testimonies Always Reliable? A Psychological Perspective [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2018 [cited 24 July 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/witness-statements-and-their-unreliability.

Get instant help from 5000+ experts for
question

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing: Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

loader
250 words
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Plagiarism checker
Verify originality of an essay
essay
Generate unique essays in a jiffy
Plagiarism checker
Cite sources with ease
support
Whatsapp
callback
sales
sales chat
Whatsapp
callback
sales chat
close