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The (un)reliability of eyewitness evidence: A philosophical examination of the conflict between the psychological research and the use of eyewitnesses in the legal system

By Nancy Goldberg Wilks


According to the psychologists, finders of fact erroneously---though unknowingly---place too much weight on eyewitness testimony. One consequence of this misplaced reliance is the conviction of innocent persons. To remedy this problem with eyewitness testimony, the majority of psychologists advocate the introduction of an expert in eyewitness testimony---ordinarily a research psychologist who is familiar with the factors affecting the reliability of the eyewitness's perceptions and memories---whenever eyewitness evidence is admitted. The psychologists' arguments for admitting eyewitness experts and the courts' explanations for excluding this testimony are fraught with difficulties. However, alternative remedies---those currently existing as well as potential remedies---similarly fail to resolve the problem. This thesis constitutes the first of a two-part work. In the present part, the different positions are assessed. The analysis yields three alternatives: (1) exclude all eyewitness testimony; (2) accept a partial, though far from complete, resolution; or, (3) do nothing. (Abstract shortened by UMI.

Topics: Law, Philosophy, Psychology
Year: 2002
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