Faulty Eyewitness Testimony

Essay by Pychgirl1978University, Bachelor'sA+, June 2010

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Eyewitness testimony has been used frequently over time in various situations. It sometimes holds more merit then some facts or evidence. Yet it is also the reason why many innocent people go to jail and criminals still walk free. Eyewitness testimony has been used for over 100 years. It has played a major part in convicting criminals, from the common thief to the most dangerous murderer. However, with the time between incident and testimony or even report can vary drastically, the quality of eyewitness testimony wasn't really recognized as an issue until the 1970's. With plenty of unsolved crimes and not enough evidence eyewitness testimony was all that was needed. Now with psychologists holding scientific studies to see if it is reliable; the legal jurisdictions try to pay more attention to the specific details. Through many studies it has been shown how the accuracy of the reports given can be altered by the ethnicity of the person and their current emotional state.

It is believed that if a weapon is used in the crime that is witnessed then the eyewitness might become distracted by the event, impairing their judgment (Wagstaff, Macveigh, Boston, Scott, Brunas-Wagstaff, &Cole 2003). This research essay will answer questions about how often faulty eyewitness testimony occurs, how it happens, and finally I will discuss how we as a society can attempt to fix it.

October 2002, ten people were killed and three injured when two snipers went on a killing spree in the Washington, D.C. area. Soon after the first shootings, police announced they were looking for a white male in his twenties, driving a white Van. Loftus gives the example of the sniper attacks in the fall of 2002."Everybody was looking for a white van even though the perpetrators, in actuality, had been driving a dark...