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Supreme Court - Essay Example

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The Supreme Court has been involved with the admissibility/suppression topic of eyewitness identification as recent as April, 2006. The most recent case was heard before the Wisconsin Supreme Court re State v Hibl. In this case, a witness accidentally saw the defendant in the court hallway before the trial…
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Download file to see previous pages Upon the state's appeal, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals adhered to the suppression ruling in a decision of two-to-one.
The issue in this project deals with witnesses to a crime identifying a suspect prior to in-person identifications. One teller had seen the defendant's arrest on television the night before a photo lineup was scheduled. Another teller had seen the defendants' photo in a newspaper story covering his arrest. And yet another teller was shown a lone picture of the defendant instead of a photo array. A police lineup was never completed.
This presents a case of power of suggestion. In the case of Simmons v US (1968), the US Supreme Court saw the problem of declining accuracy of identification after witnesses had viewed pictures of suspects. The court ruled that seeing a picture may have a detrimental effect on identification accuracy because"the witness is apt to retain in his memory the image of the photograph rather than of the person actually seen" (quoted in Brown, Deffenbachher, & Sturgill, 1977, p. 312)
Eyewitness testimony can be an important tool in the field of justice. However, it can also convict innocent people. In 1991, the percentage was estimated to be at 45% (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991). According to more recent studies, some experts say we are closer to 1% today. This is undoubtedly attributed to the introduction of DNA and the modern technologies now available to forensic scientists.
The profiling of DNA was introduced in 1984 by Alec Jeffreys, a renowned geneticist at the University of Leicester, England. Jeffreys' genetic fingerprinting was used to convict a murderer in England in 1988. Today, a DNA sample is one of the most dependable techniques used to apprehend a suspect in a criminal case.
Psychology in law states that the use of eyewitness testimony alone is the cause of convicting innocent people. Psychologically, body language and innocent remarks made by officials showing photos and conducting lineups can send unintended subliminal messages to the witness. The witness' level of confidence can be inspired by a perception that the police must be right, because this is what they're suggesting to be true. This can distort a person's memory. A 1997 study led by the National Science Foundation proved that a distorted memory can now fail to know recollect accurately.
Studies have also revealed that when the victim is the witness, he has an aggressive desire to nab a perpetrator. In this scenario, they are extremely sensitive to any signals they receive from authorities. If the police have a person in mind, they can unknowingly convey that message to the victim (Loftus, 1998).
This suggestibility is the normal tendency of people to agree with what they perceive to be what the authority figure wants to hear (Sadava & McCreary, 1997).

Showing a lone photo to a witness sends the subliminal message that 'we believe this is the guy.' Showing a photo array can send the same signal..'one of these people is the one.' Witnesses can sometimes make rash decisions so as to get the whole process over with.
For all these reasons, most law enforcement officials would contend that the identifications of the three tellers should be suppressed in court.
With all its faults, eyewitness testimony can still be a strong tool. Each individual can see the same event differently (William, 1999). To ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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