How eyewitnesses get it wrong in criminal cases
February 5, 2016
Bias can contaminate eyewitness testimony, which is the biggest contributor to wrongful convictions in the United States
The U.S. is in the throes of a long-overdue debate about how to best reform its criminal justice system. Flawed eyewitness testimony is the biggest contributor to wrongful convictions in the country. Research shows it was a factor in more than 70 percent of convictions overturned by DNA testing. Race plays a role as well: One study showed half the exonerated convicts from 1989 to 2012 were black. Despite its proven inaccuracy, eyewitness testimony remains crucial to many criminal cases and convictions. Among the reasons for flawed eyewitness testimony are biases, which can influence memory. Some police forces are taking steps to improve eyewitness procedures to reduce mistakes caused by bias. But some researchers say bias can also contaminate what we usually consider infallible scientific proof — evidence like fingerprints. Jake Ward has the story.