Sunday, November 10, 2019

Eyewitness testimony

The Expert Witness â€Å"How reliable Is eyewitness testimony On the 28th of September 1 999, a building society in West Bromidic was robbed by a man brandishing a gun. He had approached the cashier desk and pushed aside a customer and then produced a gun. He ordered the three customers in the bank to lie on the floor. He then pointed the gun in the face of the cashier and told her to fill the bag with money. In doing so, she managed to raise the silent alarm alerting the police. After her compliance, the robber instructed her to also lie on the floor behind the desk.He warned the customers not to move before shooting his gun at the ceiling and running out. The four witnesses were then Interviewed as a group by police at the scene of the crime. The first Interview revealed many Inconsistencies In the descriptions of the perpetrator and also the chain of events. All witnesses had described a white male In his ass with a local accent. The group was split 2:2 on the robbers hair color, two thought blond and the others thought it was brown. The witnesses were then taken to the police station and interviewed separately.All four had now given statements eying the robber had blond hair. A lot less inconsistencies were found when the witnesses were interviewed for the second time. A third interview was conducted a few weeks later to see if any more details had been remembered of the crime. A photo was also shown to the witnesses to see if they could confirm that he was the man they remembered from the robbery. Again the group were split, two thought It could be him and the other two were unsure. All four witnesses a few months after, had taken part In a line up In which they all picked out the same man as the robber In the bank.The man they Identified turned out to by the same man from the photo they were shown previously prior to the line-up. The man they identified was James Taylor. James Taylor is a 33 year old with one previous conviction for robbing a sweet shop when he was 18. He spent 18 months in prison for this crime and hasn't been in any trouble since. He became a suspect when an anonymous tip came in from a man with a local accent giving them Sesame's name. Taylor had said he had been in Yellowhammers at the time but could not supply any witnesses to confirm his alibi.The case went to trial before a Jury which was drawn from the local area. There was no forensic evidence lining Taylor to the crime scene but the prosecution argued he was a local man with previous convictions, that couldn't produce an alibi for his confirmed the man they picked out in the line-up, with one saying she was ‘absolutely certain' that Taylor was the man who held up the building society at gun point. After a 45 minute deliberation, the Jury returned a guilty verdict and sentenced Taylor to five years in prison.To start identifying the problems with this case and detect why the conviction was unsafe one must start with the first officers attending(FAA). The Job of a FAA is to immediately attend to injured persons at the crime scene. They then should separate eyewitnesses from one another to avoid conversations between them that might distort their memories and to avoid the transfer of trace evidence, Jackson. Jackson(2008). However, the 4 witnesses were first interviewed as a group. During this interview ,there were inconsistency with the decision of the robbers hair color.After the witnesses has listened to each other's stories, two had decided to change their minds and agree his hair color was after all blond. This is a clear robber with the testimony used in the trial, as all the witnesses were interviewed as a group. Due to social desirability and conformity they changed their remembrance of characteristics. An example of social conformity can be explained by Solomon Sash's visual Judgment experiment. Cash got 7 people to take part in each experiment but every time 6 of the participants were confederates.The confederates were instructed to all follow a strict set of instructions. In the experiment two cards were shown to the group of seven. One card had a vertical line and the other card had 3 lines of varying lengths. The experimenter then asked all seven to choose which line of the three matched the length of the line on the other card. The confederates were sometimes asked to all agree on certain cards that would appear to be blatantly obviously wrong. The experimenter was testing to see if the participant would change their mind in order to conform with the majority. 4% of the innocent participants went along with the group and conformed giving the incorrect answer, School(2013). In the third interview police took a photo of a suspect, James Taylor, to the witnesses and asked them if they could confirm that he was the man they remembered from he robbery. After this the witnesses attended a line up in which Taylor was present, from this they were able to confirm that Taylor was the robber. The questio ning from the police asking to confirm that Taylor was the robber, could be considered as a leading question.Meaning that due to their choice of wording, they were able to lead the witnesses to a desired answer. They were made to think that Taylor had committed the crime, even though they may not of originally thought it was him. Loft's and Palmer in 1974, conducted an experiment to prove that leading questions n an interview can have a clear effect on witnesses answers. They asked forty five participants to watch a clip of two cars in an accident. They were spilt into 5 groups and then they were asked the question â€Å"How fast were the cars going when they (hit/ smashed/collided/bumped/contacted) each other? A week after the participants had seen the clips, they were also asked if they saw any broken glass, even though there was no broken glass. Loft's and Palmer had found that the verb used, changed the the ‘smashed' conditions reported the highest speeds, followed by â⠂¬Ëœbumped', ‘hit' and collided' in descending order. A week after when the participants were asked if there was any broken glass at the scene, people in the smashed group predominantly said yes. This proved that a leading question encouraged the participants to remember the cars traveling at a faster speed.The question has also appeared to modify their memory as they also remember seeing non-existent glass, McLeod(2010). The leading question asked by the police could be an explanation for the sudden conformation of James Taylor being the robber, even though straight after the event, two thought he ad brown hair and two thought he had blond, now they are able to recognizes some facial characteristics one even saying she was â€Å"absolutely certain† it was James Research by Loft's and Burns in 1982 also suggests that weapon focus can have a detrimental effect on memory of certain characteristics.They believe that a witness will focus more closely on the weapon used duri ng a crime and not the person holding it. They believe this is because a person will always focus on the thing that poses a threat or injury when it's not in its usual context. For example, you wouldn't be afraid of someone brandishing a gun at a shooting range. They conducted an experiment by allocating participants to one of two conditions. One watched a violent short film of a boy being shot in the head and the other watched a non-violent short film of a crime.The results were dramatic, only 4. 3% of the subjects who watched the violent crime correctly recalled a number on a boys Jersey, this compared to 27. 9% of participants who answered correctly that had watched the non-violent version, This could be another contributing factor as to why the eyewitnesses testimony's may be unreliable and as to why they might not be able to reduce an accurate description of the robber, as he did brandish a gun, put it in the face of one of the witnesses and also fired it before he left.The wit nesses were also part of the crime not watching it on a video clip like the participants in Loft's and Burns experiment. Witnessing a real life crime is more stressful than taking part in an experiment. To hypothesis that the description the witnesses gave to the Jury, might not be as accurate as they recall, might bare some weight, due to weapon focus and other contributing variables present at the time of the incident. Another factor which could disprove the testimony given by the witnesses is one called the schema and stereotype theory.This theory suggests that we are only able to take in a certain amount of information at the scene of a crime or incident. Ata later date when we are asked to provide greater detail, we rely on past experience (schemas) and prejudices (stereotypes) to fill in the gaps. We use expectations to reconstruct our memory. One experiment conducted by Bartlett in 1932 called War of the ghosts' portrayed a great example of the way people use stereotypes and schemas. Bartlett got participants to read a native North American folk tale, then repeat the story to another person in turn who repeated it and so on.By the time the last person had repeated the story back they had shortened it by three quarters and westernizes the details for example, seal clubbing was changed to fishing. One as a stored set of knowledge about a concept which guides our behavior. These are used to prompt our memory, and sometimes to fill in gaps if we are unsure, Bartlett(1932). Bartlett suggested that we make the following adjustments in certain cough situations: He believed people tend to rationalist situations and add material to Justify parts of their story.He believes that parts of a story, particularly those difficult to understand were often left out or manipulated. When people can't make sense of a situation, they tend to rearrange the order to one which fits the stereotype of their expectations in certain events. He also believes that people add their ow n emotion to a story, making the chain of events differ from someone else due to their personal emotional response. The research conducted by Bartlett is another factor hat could be problematic in the conviction of Taylor.The four witnesses could of used their schemas and stereotypes along with leading questioning from the police to come to the assumption that James Taylor was the robber. The above explanations are reasons why the conviction for James Taylor may not of been safe and also why the eye witness testimony may have been distorted. To show the weight an eyewitness testimony bares on a case, can be demonstrated by Elizabeth Loft's in 1974. Loft's gave participants three versions of a robbery and murder case, she then asked them to decide whether the defendant was guilty.Circumstantial evidence which was presented to the mock Jurors included the fact that the robber ran into the defendant's apartment block, money was found in the defendant's room and tests revealed there was a slight chance the defendant had fired a gun on the day of the robbery/murder. Results revealed that with Just this information provided, only 18% of participants thought that the defendant was guilty. When also presented with an eyewitness testimony, the guilty verdict dramatically changed to 72%. This demonstrates the powerful effect of an eyewitness testimony.More strikingly, when the participants were informed that the eyewitness was short- sighted, he was not wearing his glasses at the time of the offence, and he could not have seen the robber's face from where he was standing, 68% still gave a guilty verdict, Stewart(2013). This demonstrates the shocking strengths that an eyewitness testimony bares on each case. Upon evaluation of this case, it would seem that the conviction to ‘send a message to other potential criminals', may have been in haste. The problem with this case not only lies with unreliable eyewitness testimony's but the conduct shown by the police wrought .From group interviews, leading questions and photographs to prompting from the prosecution lawyers prior to the trial. The conviction of James Taylor in this case, seems to be more about making an example of someone in order to set a precedent for others thinking of committing a similar crime, rather than on a case which is based purely on facts and forensic evidence, in which this case had none. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press A,R. Jacksonville(2008)Forensic science. Second Edition. Pearson education emitted, Essex England. Eyewitness Testimony In the legal profession, eyewitness testimony (EWT) is generally defined as the account of an event provided by an individual or individuals who have witnessed it.Such an account could contain the identity or identities of the people who were involved in the event, a narration of how the incident, itself, occurred, and a detailed description of the scene before, during, and after the event took place. In criminal cases in the United States, the general tendency is for juries to grant EWT a rather high level of reliability, especially in the process of identifying the perpetrator/s of a criminal act (McLeod).Unfortunately for jurists, research has been consistent in showing that EWT is not as reliable as generally perceived. As a matter of fact, in Problems and Materials on Trial Advocacy written by A. Leo Levin and Harold Cramer, the authors stated thatEyewitness testimony is, at best, evidence of what the witness believes to have occurred. It may or may not tell what actually happen ed. The familiar problems of perception, of gauging time, speed, height, weight, of accurate identification of persons accused of crime all contribute to making honest testimony something less than completely credible (Cline).This view is shared by many legal practitioners. The prevailing view not only among defense lawyers but also among prosecutors is that in spite of the sincerity of eyewitnesses, EWT could not always be credible. They are convinced that when somebody professes to have witnessed an incident or a crime, for that matter, such a statement should not be taken by faith because it is very possible that what he or she remembers seeing may not have actually happened.This argument is generally based on the fact that not all eyewitnesses possess the same degree of competence. A competent eyewitness should have the following qualities: sufficient â€Å"powers of perception†; ability to remember and describe what he or she remembers seeing; and the willingness to tell only the truth (Cline).In theory, an eyewitness testimony could be discredited in a court of law if it could be established that an eyewitness is not competent by showing that his or her memory and perception are impaired, he or she has certain biases or prejudices against the accused, or that he or she is a reputed liar. Unfortunately, records show that even eyewitness accounts from highly competent witnesses have nonetheless caused the conviction of many innocent people. These are cases which involve competent eyewitnesses giving eyewitness accounts which are not credible but appear convincing to jurors (Cline).Since eyewitness account is highly dependent upon the memory of an individual, his or her recollection of events is greatly affected by â€Å"age, health, personal bias and expectations, viewing conditions, perception problems, later discussions with other witnesses, [and] stress† (Cline).In other words, EWT should be appraised on a case-to-case basis, taking into c onsideration the personal attributes of the eyewitness and the conditions prevailing at the time of the event such as weather condition, time of day, distance of the witness from the incident, and illumination. Stress is another factor which affects a person’s memory. For instance, an eyewitness who has been so horrified by a killing often fails to recall vital aspects of the incident. In such cases, it is said that the memory of the witness fails him or her, giving credence to the school of thought which maintains that man’s memory is actually imperfect (Cline).Elizabeth Loftus belongs to this school of thought. In fact, in her book Memory: Surprising New Insights into How We Remember and Why We Forget, she wrote that â€Å"we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory†¦With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed† (Cline). In other words, memory is not only imperfect but could also be manipulated or managed. This is only one of many observations raised by scholars and researchers about the reliability of eyewitness testimony.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.