The Trentonian Examines New Jersey’s Historic Stance on Eyewitness Evidence
examines the case through every stage, from the criminal investigation to the appeals process, and explains the impact that the ruling has had on state court proceedings.
The court fully embraced the recommendations. The result is “the most detailed” precautionary jury instructions in America on eyewitness testimony, according to Brandon L. Garrett, University of Virginia law professor and author of “Convicting the Innocent.”
Now New Jersey jurors will hear instructions such as these:
— “Although nothing may appear more convincing than a witness’ categorical identification of a perpetrator, you must critically examine such testimony.”
— “Even if made in good faith, eyewitness identification may be mistaken.”
— “A witness’ level of confidence, standing alone, may not be an indication of the reliability of an identification.”
These and other jury instructions flow from Judge Gaulkin’s report that an unknown number of likely innocent people are behind bars due to mistaken eyewitness testimony.
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA evidence, contributing to nearly 75% of these cases. Decades of scientific research shows that eyewitness evidence, just like any other kind of evidence, is subject to contamination. Witnesses can be influenced and memories can become distorted.
about the Henderson decision.
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