Eyewitness Testimony

Let's say a truthful man was at the bank and he saw a robbery take place right in front of his eyes. Would you rely on that man for information about what they recall during that instance? I would expect this truthful man to tell the story as the way it happened and according to the article on Eyewitness by Hal Arkowitz, Scott O. Lilienfeld, jurors also heavily rely on information provided by eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony is a trusted source of information and has been that way for a long time. However, study has shown that eyewitness testimony might not actually be a reliable source of information. It’s apparently not a rare case that during these types of situations, people recall the wrong information. In 1984, a man named Kirk Bloodsworth was charged and sentenced to nine years in prison because the statements given by five eyewitnesses were very heavily weighted during the session. Years later, DNA testing proved him to be innocent.

Psychologists have found that when people recall memories, they’re alway changing the details of it. In the famous Lost in the Mall experiment, the subjects recalled information more detailed as time passed and 48% of what the subjects stated were false. It’s easy for our brains to implant memories that never occurred. Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist, worked endlessly to prove how memories could be so distorted and richly wrong. She’s experimented numerous times implanting memories and studying its results, she states that sharing these information to learn how to prevent memory implant is better than covering it up. It has been reported that “73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony.” Cases involving conviction of innocent people are 70% of the time rooted from eyewitness misidentification according to John Bohannon’s article on Science magazine. It is crucial that the justice system adjust and reconsider eyewitness testimony looking at these research and statistics.

There is the misconception about how the memory works and this truly creates our society to rely on eyewitness information causing many complications especially in our justice system. I think there needs to be more research and experiments completed to understand exactly how and why that occurs. As Loftus has stated, we need to work to protect ourselves from misleading preconceptions and uncover as much information about it as possible. Doing that will allow right judgement on cases like Kirk Bloodsworth.