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Eyewitness Identification and Confession

Summary

In the criminal justice system, eyewitnesses and confessions play a vital role in aiding the prosecution and investigations of criminals. Eyewitness testimony assists a crucial role in providing the features of a crime. According to the Innocence Project, it was revealed that eyewitness misidentification is the key cause of wrongful convictions globally, with nearly 75% of the already determined cases being overturned after a DNA test (Crossland, Kneller & Wilcock, 2018). These forms of crime identification serve as the essential forms of evidence that is presented to the judges to render a verdict on a case. However, the adoption of eyewitness identification and confession practices in law is inherently undependable as they rely on human senses and the ability of the brain to retrieve and encode perceptions.

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Eyewitness identification and confession usually provide reliable evidence on an initial predetermined memory test, but upon adoption of DNA tests, the verdicts are overturned. Unfortunately, the reliability of the malleability of memory has paused tragic consequences in the legal systems, therefore suggesting the need to adopt efficient approaches in utilizing confessions and eyewitnesses in a case (Crossland, Kneller & Wilcock, 2018). In this research paper, we will evaluate the best practices for obtaining information from the eyewitness and obtaining and documenting confessions while preserving the rights of the suspected offenders.

Obtaining Information from Eyewitness

In the quest to obtain first-hand information from the eyewitness, there is always a need to incorporate efficient and best practices that will ensure that information and statement are not contaminated. First, the investigating officer should determine if the maximum amount of statement and identification data was obtained from the eyewitness during the law enforcement interviews (Crossland, Kneller & Wilcock, 2018). They should ensure that the testifying person’s memory was not contaminated and that no incident may have increased their confidence. Secondly, they should ascertain to validate that all the identification procedures in the case were unbiased and fair. Thirdly, they should evaluate the various factors of the crime scene that may have likely affected the eyewitness’s accuracy and memory in remembering the events that happened. Finally, relevant conclusions should be made to determine the probable accuracy of the eyewitness testimony.

Various recommendations have been suggested to aid in avoiding statement and identification contamination provided by eyewitnesses. According to the American Psychological Law, the major recommendations for eyewitness identification procedures are linked to how the suspect lineups are conducted (Gross et al., 2020). For instance, to avoid statement and identification contamination, law enforcement personnel should interview eyewitnesses as soon as possible, especially after the committing of a crime by the suspect (Gross et al., 2020). In addition, the law enforcement personnel should neglect the repetition of a lineup with the same eyewitness and same suspects. They should also record the entire process of identification and statement issuance to the instructions given to the eyewitness before lineup up to the confidence statement to safeguard the original documents.

However, eyewitness confession is not enough to send one to jail unless the eyewitness recorded the whole crime scene on a camera. Therefore, the adoption of DNA profiling proves to be a vital forensic tool in this case. By acquiring DNA profiling, the court will be saved time for searching for perpetrators of a crime as DNA can be used to eliminate a suspect easily as compared to an eyewitness (Crossland, Kneller & Wilcock, 2018). Various states, such as California in the United States, restrict the period for post-trial submission of DNA evidence to a period lesser than six months, while others reconsider cases with compelling DNA evidence despite the period that the trial ended.

Obtaining and Documenting Confessions

In the field of law, confessions refer to a statement by the suspect in a crime that confirms their involvement in the criminal act. A confession is a form of self-testimony involving the suspect and, therefore, can be used in a court of law to effect an inquisition (Ruggeri, 2018). However, according to the law, the value of confession by the criminal should be double-checked with other objective facts stated. Confession in law is regarded as a concept of moral guilt and has been applied in different legislative codes (Ruggeri, 2018). Therefore, confessions obtained through practices such as torture may be considered as being not objective as the suspect may confess anything in such a state. Nevertheless, when the confession later reveals some secrets that are only known to the criminal, such as the location of the murder weapon and the body of the bereaved, then they are considered as being reliable.

The key practices that should be adopted in obtaining and documenting confessions entail the adoption of procedural techniques such as interviewing, questioning, interrogation and camera-recording the above practices for efficient documentation. During interviews, the law enforcement personnel acquires detailed information from the suspected offender and may become suspicious unless such suspicion is confirmed by evidence that meets formidable grounds and all tests initiated (Ruggeri, 2018). Similarly, a suspect can be questioned concerning a crime as they may reveal some circumstantial evidence that will allow the law enforcement personnel to detain the suspect. Questioning does not have immediate evidence that can associate the suspect with the said crime. Lastly, the interrogation practice serves as the most serious level for obtaining information from the suspect (Ruggeri, 2018). In case a reasonable ground for a crime has been established, interrogation practice may follow suit. However, reasonable grounds to effect arrest require more direct evidence that will associate the suspect with the crime or valid evidence.

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In preserving the constitutional rights of the suspected offenders, various steps should be taken by law enforcement personnel. These steps have been outlined below:

  • Pre-arrest investigations whereby the law enforcement officers are provided with a detailed report of a suspect in criminal activity.
  • The arrest occurs when an individual who has been accused of committing a crime is taken into custody by law enforcement personnel.
  • Initial appearance whereby the court will inform the suspect of their charges and advise them on their rights to counsel and remain silent
  • Grand jury whereby the prosecutor is forced to go to the grand jury and asks them to indict the accused person.
  • A preliminary hearing then follows whereby the suspected person has the right to be represented or present themselves during the hearing
  • Later, the suspect is arraigned in court and informed of their charges and provided with a copy of the indictment information (Birzer & Roberson, 2018).

However, the court cannot depend on confessions made by the criminals and therefore, there is always a need for double-checking to validate the objective facts. Some of the critical double-checking approaches that are utilized in the courts of law include validating the information confessed by the criminal through thorough investigation or adopting eyewitnesses in the case.

References

Birzer, M., & Roberson, C. (2018). Introduction to a criminal investigation. Routledge. Web.

Crossland, D., Kneller, W., & Wilcock, R. (2018). Intoxicated eyewitnesses: Prevalence and procedures according to England’s police officers. Psychology, Crime & Law, 24(10), 979-997.

Gross, S. R., Possley, M., Roll, K., & Stephens, K. (2020). Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent, The Role of Prosecutors, Police and Other Law Enforcement. The Role of Prosecutors, Police and Other Law Enforcement (2020). Web.

Ruggeri, S. (2018). Criminal Investigations, Interference with Fundamental Rights and Fair Trial Safeguards in the Proceedings of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. A Human Rights Law Perspective. In The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (pp. 201-233). Springer, Cham. Web.

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