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CQ Researcher
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Cover Image: CQ Researcher Eyewitness Testimony v.21-36
  • Date: 10/14/2011
  • Format: Electronic PDF
  • Price: $15.00

  • Format: Single Copy
  • Price: $15.00
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CQ Researcher Eyewitness Testimony v.21-36
Kenneth Jost, The CQ Researcher

Eyewitness testimony is often essential to criminal prosecutions, but witnesses sometimes misidentify an innocent person. Misidentifications played a part in three-fourths of the 273 wrongful convictions confirmed over the past two decades by DNA exonerations. Eyewitness scientists have long known of the unreliability of witness identifications, as confirmed through experiments dating back to the early 20th century, but police have been slow in changing ID procedures. The Supreme Court established limited safeguards against unreliable identifications in the 1960s and '70s, but experts say the rulings have had little impact and may actually mislead jurors in determining the accuracy of an identification. Now, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered stricter standards on identification testimony in the state's courts, including special instructions on the risk of misidentification even by witnesses who are absolutely certain. And the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in November in a case that could allow the justices to revisit the issues.

Kenneth Jost, The CQ Researcher

Kenneth Jost has written more than 160 reports for CQ Researcher since 1991 on topics ranging from legal affairs and social policy to national security and international relations. He is the author of The Supreme Court Yearbook and Supreme Court From A to Z (both CQ Press). He is an honors graduate of Harvard College and Georgetown Law School, where he teaches media law as an adjunct professor.

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