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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98096 Find in a Library
Title: Seeing Is Believing? The Need for Cautionary Jury Instructions on the Unreliability of Eyewitness Identification Testimony
Journal: San Fernando Law Review  Volume:11  Dated:(1983)  Pages:95-122
Author(s): J M Bibicoff
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 28
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Following a review of the psychological research literature on eyewitness reliability, a proposed solution to the problem of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony is examined.
Abstract: Research has indicated a number of social and cognitive factors that can subtly influence and powerfully distort an eyewitness perception, memory, and recall of an event. The reliability of eyewitness accounts has been shown to be affected by such variables as stress, suggestion, poor observation conditions, personal biases, and cross-racial aspects of identification. Despite this, in the minds of most jurors, eyewitness testimony is perceived as the most persuasive and trustworthy evidence available. Several safeguards have been suggested as a means of making jurors aware of the uncertainties associated with such testimony and minimizing the risk of conviction of the innocent. Foremost among these is the use of cautionary jury instructions. It is suggested that basic identification instructions be given sua sponte whenever the evidence includes eyewitness identification testimony and that special cautionary instructions be given if requested. It also is proposed that these special, particularized instructions be given sua sponte when there is no other corroborative evidence and the case depends solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness. A total of 110 footnotes are included.
Index Term(s): Evidence; Eyewitness testimony; Jury instructions; Literature reviews; Psychological research; Suspect identification
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