Perry v. New Hampshire Ruling Ignored Eyewitness Misidentification Stats


Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that eyewitness evidence should not be treated differently than other potentially flawed evidence. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlines how the decision is a missed opportunity to better understand the reliability of eyewitness identifications and improve the criminal justice system. The editorial argues that the court’s ruling ignores “two crucial developments.”

First, more than 2,000


into the mechanics and psychology of eyewitness identifications, all published since the court’s 1977 decision, have found a wide range of variables that produce inaccurate eyewitness identifications. They include the presence of a weapon, consumption of alcohol or drugs, how long a witness watched what was happening, how long after a crime an identification is made and the race and age of an alleged perpetrator. They go well beyond suggestive conditions set up by police.

Second, despite the often-shaky reliability of eyewitness identifications and the opportunity of defense lawyers to expose flaws through cross-examination in court, juries place disproportionate faith in the IDs anyway.

In the book “Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong,” University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett researched the cases of 250 people who were wrongfully convicted before DNA evidence proved their innocence. More than 75 percent of the convictions were based on eyewitness misidentification. 
Read the

full editorial


Watch a video

about eyewitness misidentification.

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