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How effective are legal rules, including common law rules & rules established by the US Supreme Court (under the due process clauses & the 6th Amendmentright to counsel) in improving the accuracy of eyewitness identification In answering this question, f - Essay Example

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Eyewitness testimony is a convincing body of evidence whose admissibility at trial is not subject to question despite its vulnerability to psychological flaws. In almost all of criminal cases handled within the commonwealth jurisdiction, the prosecution’s primary body of…
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How effective are legal rules, including common law rules & rules established by the US Supreme Court (under the due process clauses & the 6th Amendmentright to counsel) in improving the accuracy of eyewitness identification In answering this question, f
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The Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification Number Eyewitness identification Eyewitness testimony is a convincing body of evidence whose admissibility at trial is not subject to question despite its vulnerability to psychological flaws. In almost all of criminal cases handled within the commonwealth jurisdiction, the prosecution’s primary body of evidence comprises eyewitness identification. Regardless, in more than 50% of acquittals from prison based on DNA evidence, wrong eyewitness identification was the primary cause of the sentence. Either way, eyewitness identification usually determines the result of criminal proceedings.
In light of the pivotal role played by eyewitnesses, evidence rules at common law level, as was evident in the verdict on United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967) are relatively effective in requiring the parties to not only identify criminal suspects before the court, but also to volunteer evidence at pretrial stages for more scrutiny. Zalman (2011) noted that evidence of several, consistent eyewitness identifications as provided for under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment tend to weaken the ability of a defendant to escape conviction and vice versa. Conversely, owing to the common issue of wrong identifications, defendants have a right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment primarily to educate the court about issues, which may affect the integrity of eye­witness identifications.
The constitutional right to counsel from the pretrial stages through to the trial process as provided for under the Sixth Amendment ensures that any form of skewed collection of evidence that may jeopardize the fair trial of the defendant is disallowed under the exclusionary rule (Zalman, 2011). During eyewitness identification by lineups, for instance, a defense attorney would ensure that police officers use the right number of people (five to six), and that the suspect and the fillers resemble each other. Each member of the group must also match the description which the police obtained from the eyewitnesses for more accurate outcomes. In addition, an attorney would also ensure that a witness is provided with the right number of photos of persons bearing the same qualities during a photo identification process after administering them with proper instructions for credible outcomes. At trial, Woody (2003) noted that eyewitness identification ensures the accuracy of the prosecution evidence by deducing its integrity by cross-examining the witnesses in question.
Despite the importance of eyewitness identification, Woody (2003) said psychologies have discovered potential failures of human memory process and how it may lead to misidentification at lineups. First, witnesses tend to be exposed to high level of anxiety when felony is in progress, which hinders the effective grasp of the images of the criminal suspects for identification at lineups. Secondly, the reconstructive nature of human memory of incidents, which falls short of the accuracy of a video recorder may regenerate an extremely different image of the criminal suspect; thirdly, witnesses often pay more attention to weapons, not the morphology of the criminal suspect presented at lineups; fourthly, leading questions and related eyewitness identification methods used by detectives and investigators could impair impartial eyewitness judgments at lineups; and lastly, cross-racial eyewitness identification processes also tend to be subjective. Lining up a black suspect alongside whites would bolster his or her identification.
Conclusion
Generally, poor eyewitness identification is a serious problem that leads to wrongful convictions, but which courts are relatively reluctant to root out because of the immense power of a live witness. However, the defendants’ right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment contributes to a higher level of accuracy of the outcomes of the identification process by reducing several psychological biases at lineups such poor selection of decoys and suggestive communications with witnesses throughout the criminal proceedings.
References
Woody, W.D., (2003). Psychology and the Legal System: An Interview with Edie Greene. Teaching of Psychology, 30(2), 174-180.
Zalman, M., (2011). Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Read More
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