Reliability of Eyewitness Identification as a Forensic Tool

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Hoover (Marriott Wardman Park)
Karen Kafadar, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Among the 318 wrongful convictions identified by the Innocence
Project that were later overturned by DNA evidence resurrected
from the crime scene, 229 (72%) involved eyewitness testimony.
Such courtroom identifications from an eyewitness can be
tremendously powerful evidence in a trial.  Yet memory is not
a perfect video recording of events, and one's recollection
of the events surrounding an incident is even less reliable.
In October 2014, the National Academy of Sciences issued a
landmark report evaluating the scientific research on memory
and eyewitness identification. The Committee, comprised of
researchers (psychologists, statisticians, sociologists)
and representatives of the judicial system (judges, attorneys)
reviewed published research on the factors that influence the
accuracy and consistency of eyewitnesses' identifications,
conducted via laboratory and field studies.  I will describe
the research on memory and recollection, the shortcomings in
the statistical methods used in evaluating laboratory studies,
and the Committee's recommendations aimed at standardizing
procedures and informing judicial personnel of the factors
that can have negative impacts on accuracy of eyewitness
testimony.  (The author was a member of the NAS Committee
that issued the report.)