alexa Flipping a coin: A solution for the inherent unreliability of eyewitness identification testimony
Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences

Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

Author(s): NOAH CLEMENTS

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By most accounts, mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. This phenomenon is not new but 1 seems to be a timeless aspect of criminal procedure. “Centuries of experience . . . have shown that convictions based solely on testimony that identifies a defendant previously unknown to the witness is highly suspect. Of all the various kinds of evidence it is the least reliable . . . .” Justice Frankfurter once 2 said: What is the worth of identification testimony even when uncontradicted? The identification of strangers is proverbially untrustworthy. The hazards of such testimony are established by a formidable number of instances in the records of English and American trials. These instances are recent—not due to the brutalities of ancient criminal procedure.3 The Supreme Court has placed the blame squarely on government suggestive nature when examining witnesses but has allowed even tainted identifications 4 when the court is satisfied the identification is otherwise reliable. All proposals 5 to improve the reliability of eyewitness identifications have focused on removing the influential nature of governmental suggestion

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This article was published in Ind. L. Rev and referenced in Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

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