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PSYC 3310 (80)

Ch. 6: Eyewitness Identification

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PSYC 3310
Gwen Jenkins

Ch. 6: Eyewitness Identification Tuesday, June 05, 2012:39 PM Where is the focus of your attention? - Armed robbery - Ask? What do you think the couple leaving the shop were able to tell the police? - The eye tends to focus on one thing at a time, generally whatever is moving. Static information is sacrificed. - To attend to static information, we have to choose to ignore moving information. Howuseful is eyewitness testimony? - Goal of police is to "clear" crimes, rates low ○ Cleared by charge (cbc) = proceeded to trial ○ Cleared otherwise = offender known, no trial - Violations against person (cbc) (Stats Can, 2003) ○ [The rates against people are much more likely to be cleared than violations against property] Problems with Eyewitness Testimony - Eyewitness evidence is extremely influential at trial, but eyewitnesses often inaccurate ○ E.g., Thomas Sophonow case ○ Wells (1993) examined 40 cases of wrongful convictions-- accused falsely identified in 90% ○ Innocence Project - Eyewitness evidence may be 'traded' ○ E.g., Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter MistakenConvictionof Rubin "Hurricane" Carter The "Hurricane": Prior Criminal Record - Age 14, assault & robbery, escaped juvenile reformatory - Joined army at age 17, discharged "Unfit for military service" at age 19 - Returned to reformatory-- arrested for street muggings after release ○ Pleaded guilty, spent 4 years in New Jersey State Prison (maximum-security) The "Hurricane": Eyewitness Testimony - Alfred Bello (burglar), testified that he saw 2 black males, 1 with a shotgun, 1 with a pistol-- get into white car - Patricia Graham (witness) testified she was 2 black males get in white car & drive away - Ronald Ruggiero (witness) testified he heard screech of tires & saw white car with 2 black males in front seat - Carter's car matched witnesses' description - Carter & Artis did not match descriptions given by injured eye witness - None of eyewitnesses, nor injured parties, identified Carter or Artis as shooters - Polygraph: Carter "attempting deception to all pertinent questions… was involved in this crime" - Carter & Artis released - Bello & accomplice changed story, identified Carter & Artis as the black males seen - Bello & accomplice changed story, identified Carter & Artis as the black males seen Systemvs. Estimator Variables - Eyewitness accuracy influenced by two factors: 1. System variables-- preventable errors  Police procedures, e.g., type of questioning, nature of lineup 2. Estimator variables-- not preventable  E.g., lighting at scene, length of exposure - How can psychologists help? ○ Improve police procedures (system variables) ○ Explain/testify about fallibility of eye witness testimony evidence (estimator variables) Improper PoliceProcedures - One goal of forensic psychology is to "make eyewitness identification a product of memory, not police procedure" (p. 120, text) - The Case of Tony Ford ○ Currently on Death Row in Texas ○ 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal.  One issue at appeal: denial of funds to hire expert, Professor Malpass, to identify on eyewitness identification issues in the case TonyFord - El Paso Eyewitness Lab ○ Malpass evaluated line-up used in investigation resulting in Ford's identification ○ Witnesses gave poor verbal descriptions of perpetrator - No useful verbal descriptions available in record ○ 20 participants shown line-up photo of Ford and asked to give descriptions ○ Composite description:  African American male, early 20s, dark hair  Oval face, broad forehead  Small, dark eyes, thin eyebrows  Wide nose, thick lips, small protruding ears Ford: Amicus brief - "Psychological research shows that contextual conditions… have a dramatic effect on a witness's ability to identify the perpetrator" -- all factors present in Ford's case 1. Weapon Focus - Presence of weapon during crime reduces witness's ability to recall other details and correctly identify perpetrator - Ford case, eyewitnesses testified… □ Gun was continuously pointed at them during incident □ Perpetrators used gun to threaten them, one eyewitness shot 2. Stress/Violence - Highly stressful/violent events increase likelihood that witness will misidentify perpetrator - Less able to recall details correctly - Memories less accurate - Memories less accurate - Increases risk of "false-positive" identifications 3. "Forgetting Curve" - Witness's ability to correctly identify a perpetrator decreases rapidly over time - Ford case, one eyewitness identified Ford from photo array one day after incident, the other eyewitnesses nine days later 4. Assimilation (memories & suggestibility) - Exposure to outside information/subtle suggestions regarding identity of perpetrator can alter memories □ Witnesses who receive information about what another person saw often incorporate that info into their own reports □ Exposing witnesses to photographs of an individual described as a "suspect" had highly biasing effect on later identification (Behrman & Vayder, 1994) 5. Police Procedures (Wells, more later) 6. Cross-Racial Identification - Witnesses of one race more likely to falsely identify person of another race - Ford case, eyewitnesses Mexican-American, Ford African-American 7. Confidence of Witness - Post-identification confidence has little relation to accuracy - Eyewitness confidence can
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