Eyewitness testimony occurs when an individual observes a crime or an accident; later, they reveal the details on the court’s stand to help investigate the case. Typically, it is a more complicated process than one might initially presume. Collecting testimony includes what happens during the crime scene, before, and after it to reconstruct the sequence of events. There are many aspects investigators should examine prior to beginning courtroom proceedings. A witness can be interviewed by the police, numerous lawyers, psychologists, and other stakeholders to identify if the supposed delinquent indeed was involved in transgression (Ciccarelli and White 239). Witnesses play an increasingly important role in indicating the perpetrator’s exact identity, among other alleged criminals (Loftus 499). In general, eyewitnesses may be useful evidence; yet, there are cases when it can mislead the investigation.
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The crime took place late at night, as is known from the case. In addition, the event is complicated by the fact that the murder was committed in a dark alley, which is a relatively deserted location; this fact suggests that the witness could have barely recognized anyone clearly. This means that anyone could have been there, as it would be difficult to indicate a person by glimpsing at their silhouette. Furthermore, under considerable nervous strain, a person may exaggerate images that they see. Thus, it may be assumed that this case proves the unreliability of the method.
There is a psychological perspective that may unveil the incorrectness of eyewitness testimony. It means any person who watches a crime being committed cannot think or see distinctly due to several factors. These include stress, anxiety, reconstructive memory, weapon focus, or leading questions (Loftus 501). The emergence of such psychological determinants assumes that the eyewitness’s memory is not accurate and cannot be applied to every inquiry.
The theory of reconstructive memory helps investigators understand the validity of witness evidence. Loftus suggested that memory is subject to personal interpretation, depending on learned or cultural norms and values, as well as on how people define their world (502). It is misleading to think that storing information in one’s mind is similar to recording or videotaping because information cannot be decoded or retrieved entirely. The peculiarity of human memory is that it does not keep data precisely as it appears. Instead, people extract the essence, or hidden meaning, from the information. As a result, individuals perceive objects, situations, and other people according to their norms and values (Loftus and Ketcham 16). Subsequently, the eyewitness recognized the familiar body features they had in their mental prism, without considering that different people had similar characteristics. Reconstructing multiple ideas into one pattern is complicated due to the diversified worldviews; thus, eye witnessing is ineffective.
Additionally, retrieving cues is a complex process because witnesses are often confused by the jury, investigators, and psychologists’ questions. Retrieval cues are prompts that help people recall certain memories. They can be presented in different forms: lineups, interviews, and some others (Loftus and Ketcham 54). Contextual reinstatement is one of the most common techniques for reconstructing witness information since it has been effective for details recognition (Loftus and Ketcham 60). For instance, taking a witness to the crime scene may help them remember some specific features. Unlike contextual reinstatement, suggestibility only deludes eyewitnesses because questions asked can be confusing and lead to erroneous judgments. Lineups are a series of photographs of suspects that are shown to a witness for identification; however, this method is ineffective, as the person may feel pressured to make a choice. Hence, the memory retrieval process is sometimes a source of false evidence.
Furthermore, the jury cannot lean on the witness’s memories because sometimes they are unreliable. The eyewitness accounts are more erroneous than many may assume. The brain’s capacity to memorize is limited; hence, people forget specific details even though they may remember general facts. Some witnesses’ stories are sometimes extraordinarily accurate or fictional, and they can change depending on the situation. Therefore, eyewitnesses must be testified carefully because they may present contaminated information (Ciccarelli and White 370). Before bearing testimony, a person should be memory tested to ensure a smooth case investigation.
In addition, the alleged killer has an alibi; this means that one person could not have been in two different places at the time of the murder. Since my client was not present at the crime scene, I doubt his implication. Thus, considering the psychological perspective of eyewitnesses, the court may not have evidence related to this investigation. Knowing the accused was in a different place, the witness may have caught a glimpse of another person. As a result, witnessing a shadowy figure over a body does not mean that it was precisely him.
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In conclusion, I will restate that I doubt my client’s involvement in a crime. First, he has an alibi; second, the eyewitness might have confused my client with any other individual due to reality perversion and other stress-related factors. The case is complicated by the fact that the murder took place in a dark alley, which signifies the distortion of real images. Thus, I question the alleged defendant’s guilt in the murder because of the misleading nature of the eyewitness account. Eyewitness memory is a reliable method solely when the testimony is verified through proper procedures. Unfortunately, the legal system usually considers more contaminated eyewitness accounts than reliable ones. The sooner the police, prosecutors, attorneys, and judges understand this fact, the better it will be for all of the stakeholders.
Ciccarelli, Saundra K., and J. Noland White. Psychology. 6th ed., Pearson Education, 2016.
Loftus, Elizabeth. “Eyewitness Testimony.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 33, no. 4, 2019, pp. 498-503.
Loftus, Elizabeth, and Katherine Ketcham. The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse. St. Martin’s Press, 1994.