How to train yourself to be a better eyewitness
April 21, 2014 at 7:32 AM ET
How to be a better witness:
- Safety first.
- After you are safe, write down everything you remember, as memory can fade quickly.
- Focus on unchangeable and/or unique features of the perpetrator, such as a scar or skin complexion.
- Relate the perpetrator(s) to someone you know. How are they similar? How are they different?
- When speaking with police, avoid making inferences. If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know.
- Request best practices in your case. Ask for a sequential double-blind lineup with pre-lineup instructions.
- Don’t assume the perpetrator is in the lineup that the police show you.
How to be a better juror:
- A witness’ level of confidence in their identification, especially at trial, must be considered with caution.
- Scrutinize the conditions under which the witness view the perpetrator(s) and the conditions under which their memory was tested.
- Consider when a witness’ description of the perpetrator(s) was given. Was it before or after they viewed a police suspect?
- Don’t be dismissive of differences between the witness’ description and the defendant’s appearance at the time of the crime.
- Generally, quicker identifications are more likely to be accurate because recognition is a quick process. Be wary of long decision times.
- Look for a video or audio recording of the entire identification procedure, not just a recording of the interview after the identification has been made.