- Published: November 19, 2012
Eyewitness testimony has always been an integral part of our justice system. Knowing what happened plays a huge role in the decision-making of the jury. However, it is only in recent history that we have begun to question the accuracy of memory and even retellings.
Studies involving memory have given light to our mental inaccuracies. In one study, subjects were shown a slideshow of a car collision. Some were told of the event as a “hit” while others a “smash.” The results showed that were told about a smash were much more likely to imagine broken side windows on the cars. Memory has shown to have bias through other means as well, especially in the retelling of stories.
While it is possible to train a person into being a better witness and story-teller, it is unreasonable to demand that of everyone. Rather it is more important to understand and communicate the unreliability of eyewitness testimony to juries. The voice of our peers holds much sway in jury decision-making, but it must be known that this testimony is similar to a poor technology. It may be important give scientific evidence of memory construction or talk about old DNA exonerated criminals…