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Eyewitness Identification.  Factual background. In two separate incidents injury 1984, an assailant broke into an apartment, severed phone wires, sexually.

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Presentation on theme: "Eyewitness Identification.  Factual background. In two separate incidents injury 1984, an assailant broke into an apartment, severed phone wires, sexually."— Presentation transcript:

1 Eyewitness Identification

2  Factual background. In two separate incidents injury 1984, an assailant broke into an apartment, severed phone wires, sexually assaulted a woman, and searched through her belongings, taking money and other items. On August 1, 1984, Ronald Cotton was arrested for the rapes. Victim picked Cotton out of lineup.  In January 1985, Cotton was convicted by a jury of one count of rape and one count of burglary.  In a second trial, in November 1987,Cotton was convicted of both rapes and two counts of burglary. An Alamance County Superior Court sentenced Cotton to life plus 54 years.

3  Postconviction challenges. Cotton's attorney filed an appeal. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the second victim had picked another man out of the lineup and the trial court did not allow this evidence to be heard by the jury. In November 1987 Cotton was retried, this time for both rapes. The second victim had decided that Cotton was the assailant.  Before the second trial, a man in prison, who had been convicted for crimes similar to these assaults, stated to another inmate that he had committed Cotton's crimes. The superior court judge refused to allow this information into evidence, and Cotton was convicted of both rapes and sentenced to life.

4  Victim who identified him was Jennifer Thompson-Cannino  Youtube   NBC today clip  oday-today_people/ oday-today_people/

5  DNA results. The samples from one victim were too deteriorated to be conclusive, but the samples from the other victim's vaginal swab and underwear were submitted to PCR testing and showed no match to Cotton. At the defense attorneys' request, results were sent to DNA data base containing the DNA patterns of convicted, violent felons in North Carolina prisons. The State's data base showed a match with the convict who had earlier confessed to the crime—Bobby Poole. After Cotton's attorneys received the test results in May 1995, they contacted the district attorney, who joined the defense attorneys in the motion to dismiss the charges.  On June 30,1995, Cotton was officially cleared of all charges and released from prison. In July 1995 the governor of North Carolina officially pardoned Cotton, making him eligible for $5,000 compensation from the State. Cotton had served 10 years of his sentence.


7  As of February 3, 2011, 266 convictions for serious offences have been overturned  The majority of wrongful conviction were based largely or entirely on faulty eyewitness identification 

8 "I remember the truth about how it all started, even though the police tried to beat the lies into me.“ Butler said he doesn't want to be portrayed as a celebrity out to make a quick buck. He intends to give a percentage of the proceeds to a foundation his family is establishing to help people wrongfully convicted of crimes, his father said. "The book isn't about the limelight. The book isn't about fame," the teen said. "The book is strictly about the facts."

9 Brenton Butler website Note that Butler was both shorter and younger than person husband described previously to police. Also dressed differently. Cross-race identification. No lineup. Weapon focus. Prosecutor: "We have an eye- witness that says this young man did it. That is the only proof you need of his guilt.“


11 Round up the usual suspects!


13 MADRID (Reuters) - A Nigerian convicted of assault in Spain was acquitted when he was found to have been the only black man in an identity parade used as key evidence in his conviction, the government-run news agency EFE reported on Tuesday.  Henry Osagiede was facing 10 years in prison after being found guilty in 2008 by a Madrid court for attacking one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2005, EFE reported, citing the Supreme Court ruling which acquitted him.  "A badly assembled identity parade, with a lack of resemblance (between the suspects in the parade) can lead to mistaken identity and consequently an error of justice," EFE cited Spain's highest court as saying.

14  Factors that may account for mistaken eyewitness identification ◦ Witness, Situational, and Postevent factors  Children as eyewitnesses  Safeguards and Protections ◦ Investigation and Courtroom procedures

15  Very compelling evidence at trial ◦ Loftus (1984): ¾ convictions when only EW ID, with only one eyewitness in half of those case ◦ Cutler & Penrod (1995): 2x more convictions with EW ID than when no eyewitness ◦ Brenton Butler prosecutor: "We have an eyewitness that says this young man did it. That is the only proof you need of his guilt.”  Mistaken eyewitness ID ◦ Cause of more wrongful convictions than all other causes together ◦ Penrod & Cutler (1999): Accounts for 4500 wrongful convictions annually. No stats available for Canada.

16  Tried three times and wrongly convicted twice for the 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel, 16, a Winnipeg waitress. Faulty eyewitness ID was a key component of the Crown's case.  Sophonow's murder conviction was also bolstered by Douglas Martin, an informant who claimed he heard Sophonow confess to the murder.  Sophonow, who spent nearly four years in prison, was cleared in 2000 and awarded $2.3 million compensation.

17  One of the most well-known wrongful conviction cases in Canada. He was convicted at the age of 17 for the murder of Gail Miller, a 22-year-old nursing aide found raped and stabbed to death in a snow bank in Saskatoon. He was released from prison at the age of 40, largely as a result of his mother uncovering the fact that a number of witnesses had lied at trial.  He was exonerated in 1997 as a result of DNA testing, which confirmed the killer was Larry Fisher, a rapist subsequently convicted of the crime. Milgaard and his family were awarded $10 million in compensation in 2003 -- the largest in Canada for wrongful conviction.

18  System variables: affect accuracy of EW testimony that justice system can control ◦ e.g., question wording, lineup construction  Most research deals with system variables  Estimator variables: affect accuracy of EW testimony but justice system cannot control ◦ e.g., time and attention paid to event witness, lighting conditions

19  There are three general dependent variables used in eyewitness studies: 1. Recall of the event 2. Recall of the perpetrator 3. Recognition of the culprit

20  Recall of the crime event can take two forms: ◦ Open Ended Recall/Free Narrative: Witnesses are asked to recount what they witnessed without being prompted ◦ Direct Question Recall: Witnesses are asked specific questions about the event

21  Police officers may impede the interview process by: ◦ Interrupting witnesses during free recall ◦ Asking questions not relevant to what the witness is currently describing ◦ Asking short specific questions which may not get at critical information

22  Misleading information ◦ Info introduced post-event can influence recall  e.g., Loftus & Palmer (1974) crash paradigm ◦ Prime conditions: 1.Strength of memory is weaker vs. stronger 2.Misinformation not recognized as incorrect at the time 3.Misinformation delivered by credible source (Wright et al., 1999)

23 5 - 23 Copyright © 2009 Pearson Education Canada  Occurs when a witness is provided with inaccurate information about an event after it is witnessed and incorporates the ‘misinformation’ in their later recall (Loftus, 1975).  How fast were the cars going when they contacted (hit, smashed) each other?

24 5 - 24 Copyright © 2009 Pearson Education Canada  Explicit ◦ Did the person carrying the hammer walk or run out of the store? (when a screwdriver was present instead of a hammer)  Implicit ◦ Did you see the hammer? (when no hammer was present)

25  Age ◦ Research focuses on adults vs. children. Will look at this later in lecture  Gender ◦ No evidence that females or males are better/worse  Race ◦ No evidence that members of one race better than another at eyewitness ID ◦ Own race bias (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). Within race ID significantly better than cross-race ID. Consider Brenton Butler case. Was this a factor?



28  Weapon focus refers to the concentration of witness attention on a weapon during a crime. Thus, witnesses would pay less attention to the person and have more difficulty in accurately identifying a person. ◦ The witness will remember less about the crime and culprit when a weapon is used than when there is no weapon. Was this another factor in Butler case? 6-39

29 Loftus et al. used slides that showed people in an order line at a Taco Time. In the control, person hands a check to cashier and receives money in return, but in the exp. condition, a gun is pulled on the cashier and she hands him money. Subjects later shown a 12-person photo lineup. Results: 39% of control subjects chose correct person compared to only 11% of E's. The 2 groups did not differ in their confidence ratings. An innovation of this exp. was the analysis of eye movement data. Videotapes of subjects were rated in terms of timing the duration of fixations on the gun and check. Subjects made more fixations and for longer periods on gun than check. Weapon Focus

30  Environmental factors ◦ Amount and type of light ◦ Precipitation ◦ Distance  Duration of event ◦ Time-accuracy relationship ◦ Witness overestimation of short events

31  Passage of time ◦ Recall drops as time passes ◦ Forgetting steepest immediately then levels off (Ebbinghaus, 1964) ◦ False identifications increase over time. Shepard study found 65% accuracy after one week, but only 10% after 11 month delay. ◦ Time-suggestion interaction, as the more time that passes between a witnessed event and a misleading question, the more distortion (Hoffman et al., 1992).

32  Unconscious transference ◦ Witness remembers a face but inaccurately attributes it to a different context, or identifies an innocent bystander  Lineups and photospreads Three domains of errors: 1.Instructions 2.Structure 3.Procedure

33  Instructions ◦ Witnesses feel strong pressure to make ID ◦ False IDs reduced by:  Instructing that perpetrator may not be present  Warning not to guess  Structure ◦ Foils should match perpetrator

34 Ivan Henry. Convicted of rape and spent 26 years in prison. Acquitted in 2010.

35  The sole eyewitness who testified at a 1995 trial that Richard Miles was a murderer now says the Dallas County prosecutor in the case coached him to do so, according to an affidavit obtained by The Dallas Morning News.Dallas  In a sworn statement taken in January, the witness, Marcus Thurman, testified that he had doubts about whether Miles was the man he saw firing a gun several times into a car, killing one man and wounding another. But he said the prosecutor, Tom D'Amore, told him where the defendant would sit and that he needed to point him out to the jury.  "I did not recognize him. He did not look like the shooter," Thurman, now a police officer in Oklahoma, swore in the affidavit. "When I was asked if I could point out the shooter, I did as I was instructed."Oklahoma

36  Procedure ◦ Sequential vs. simultaneous presentation. Sequential can reduce rate of false ID. ◦ Dual lineup procedure involves use of a blank lineup. Witness told perpetrator may not be present. In research, can assess temptation to select someone.  Demand Characteristics ◦ Explicit or implicit psychological pressure can lead to errors in identification and testimony. Anxiety/desire to help police.


38  Witness confidence ◦ Confident witnesses are persuasive with jurors ◦ Confidence ≠ accuracy ◦ Confidence is malleable; it can be manipulated. ◦ Confidence increases over time & successive identifications ◦ Wells & Bradfield (1998) experiment. Viewed video of man entering a store and told man had killed guard. Photospread, those who made wrong ID later told they were either correct or not. Confirming feedback group reported being more confident at time of ID, that they made the ID more easily, and had a better view of perpetrator than group informed they were wrong.

39  Children differ from adults in accuracy and completeness  Provide less information overall and less accurate information  Tendencies more pronounced when responding to specific questions  Narrative accounts more accurate when acting as participant vs. observing

40  In general, children experience same types of difficulties as adults  Children find it very difficult to indicate perpetrator is not present in lineup ◦ Especially likely to misidentify incorrect suspect  Children substantially more suggestible ◦ Kids < 6 have difficulty distinguishing real from imaginary events

41  Wee Care Nursery School Case (1985) ◦ Children interrogated and interviewed repeatedly in suggestive manner  Testimony in child sexual abuse cases ◦ Children generally viewed as less credible witnesses than adults, except:  Children who testify in child sexual abuse cases are perceived as more credible and believable than adolescents/adults by jurors

42 42 Child often fears presence of accused & open court  Screen & esp. CCTV give child psychological security Screen & CCTV were often not used before Bill C-2 ◦ under 10% of cases with young children ◦ more due to Crown reluctance & administrative difficulty than judicial refusal to allow CCTV often preferable to child than screen  Screen often clumsy CCTV/screen not a panacea ◦ child may be less convincing to jury

43 43

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45 45 Camera

46 AP-LS subcommittee recommendations (1996)




50  Psychologists may be called to testify about eyewitness IDs  Testimony generally focuses on factors impacting accuracy & possibility of false/mistaken IDs  Judges reluctant to permit expert testimony (expert battle; “lay knowledge”) ◦ Research suggests laypersons are insensitive to relevant factors (e.g., Cutler et al., 1990) ◦ =

51  Alternative to expert testimony  Judges instruct and educate jury about relevant factors  Research shows jurors have difficulty understanding & remembering instructions  Judge will not always oblige defense requests for instructions

52  Mvo Mvo

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