Can’t say it enough – the unreliability of eyewitness testimony

In a 2001 case, the People v. Lee, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, ruled that a trial judge has discretion to admit expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitness identifications.

A 1999 guide produced by Janet Reno’s U.S. Department of Justice, entitled ‘Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide For Law Enforcement’, discusses the unreliability of eyewitness identifications. It covers photo and live line ups, as well as witness interviews.

In Rethinking the Role of Expert Testimony, this New York Law School Law Review article explores the history of the admissibility of expert testimony regarding the reliability of eye witness testimony.

Brent Trowbridge, author of Admissibility of Expert Testimony Concerning Eyewitness Evidence in Washington Courts , makes the disturbing observation that Courts seem to be particularly unwilling to allow expert opinion evidence about eyewitness fallibility in very serious cases, such as cases involving murder, or very serious injury, robberies, or rapes. He notes that Trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to admit expert testimony on eyewitness identification.


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