Eye Witness Reports

We have discussed here the reliability of eye witness reports.  I have written many pre-sentence investigation reports as a probation officer, and can assure you that eye witness reports play a large role in sentencing.  But the June issue of Scientific American Mind tells us that from 1989 to 2016 over 70% of the wrongful convictions involved eyewitness reports.  Now we have research that shows how to reduce the risk of misidentification, and it is simple.  At the time of the lineup in the police department, or showing victims sequential photographs of people that may include the suspect, the police can simply ask the witness to rate their confidence they have identified the right person.  If they report initial high confidence, move ahead, but be wary of low confidence identifications.  I perhaps more than most believe we must identify and respond to criminal and delinquent behavior, but there is much we have stressed that is also very important.  The impact of a false conviction, the associated stigma, perhaps incarceration for an innocent person demands more research and understanding.