DNA exonerations continue to cast doubt on eyewitness identifications


Eyewitness identifications are still among the most common form of evidence in American courtrooms. Meanwhile, DNA exonerations and solid scientific research have shown that witnesses make mistakes and that police will sometimes bolster witness’ confidence in a questionable identification.

An article in the Austin American-Statesman reviews a 1988 murder case in which a defendant was acquitted after a child victim made an unreliable identification.

A growing body of research has improved the scientific understanding of witness testimony, shattering long-held beliefs about the reliability of first-hand observation.

The results have gained credibility as DNA testing has exonerated 198 inmates nationally, 152 of whom were wrongly convicted based on witness testimony, according to the Innocence Project, which pursues DNA exonerations.

Today, it's known that fear plays a key role in impeding the ability to form and process memories, Wells said.

"The natural tendency for all humans is fight or flight from fear. All of one's mental resources get devoted to survival, and forming a detailed memory of things around you does not help you survive," Wells said.

Read the full story here

. (Austin Amerian-Statesman, 4/15/07, Payment required for full article)

Read more about Eyewitness Misidentification

in our Understand the Causes section.

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