Race and Misidentification


As DNA exonerations cases have shown, eyewitnesses can be wrong.  Human memory is fallible and law enforcement procedures can be suggestive or misleading. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette examined the issue in an in-depth story yesterday, focusing on cross-racial misidentification.

Studies have found that babies between six and twelve months lose some of their ability to distinguish between less familiar facial characteristics. If a baby is surrounded mostly by people of one racial background, he or she usually won’t be adept at identifying members of another race. Wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing

demonstrate the danger of cross-racial misidentification

. Three-quarters of the 265 DNA exoneration cases involved misidentification, and in more than half of the misidentification cases the perpetrator and eyewitness were of different racial backgrounds.

The two-part Post-Gazette series this week looks at

cross-racial misidentification


a new method for developing composite sketches

. Read the articles here and try your hand as an eyewitness

in this interactive feature


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