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Eyewitness Identification

NCJ Number
L Taylor
Date Published
299 pages
This textbook relies on scientific and legal research to explain the psychology of eyewitnesses, the impact of their testimony on jurors, and the effect of police and court procedures on their reliability and accuracy.
Generally, younger persons are more capable eyewitnesses, and males and females tend to better recall items associated with their own sex. Similarly, individuals are better at recognizing suspects who are members of their own racial group. Most jurors will accept eyewitness testimony even if the circumstantial or physical evidence has been clearly refuted. Anxiety levels, visual acuity, sharpness of memory, and environmental factors affect an eyewitness' ability to recall events. The polygraph and the voice stress analyzer have limitations and legal problems of admissibility; suggestive police identification procedures can also cause eyewitness misidentification. The composition of a lineup and the circumstances surrounding its presentation are critical. Photographic displays and artists' sketches can be prejudicial. One such biased procedure is the 'Oklahoma showup,' in which police arrange for the witness to 'accidentally' see the suspect in an incriminating context, such as wearing handcuffs. These police procedures may violate a suspect's constitutional rights; the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wade, recognized the pitfalls of pretrial identification procedures. These rights are also at issue during the trial. The text reviews defense and prosecution tactics affecting eyewitnesses, discussing information disclosure and suppression, corroboration of testimony, and cross-examination. Footnotes, more than 100 references, and an index are furnished.