We’ve commented before on this blog about how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be — see here, here, here, and here.
The US justice system gives great credence to eyewitness identification, and an eyewitness identification will even trump an airtight alibi in court. But according to the most recent data from the National Registry of Exonerations, false or mistaken eyewitness identification is a contributing factor in 36% of wrongful convictions:
Here is a brief CNN clip, featuring cognitive psychologist Prof. Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington, giving some examples of faulty eyewitness testimony: Eyewitnesses Are Often Wrong.
If you would like a real “eye opener” on the subject, I recommend the book Picking Cotton by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. The book details an instance in which the victim had close, lengthy, one-on-one contact with the perpetrator, and still got the eyewitness identification wrong – multiple times.
Editor’s Note: Although this article is clearly editorial in nature, it contains a substantial amount of fact and data that have direct bearing on the subject. It’s also a long article, and I hope you’ll have the patience to read it through to the end.
The article is in five sections:
The History of Sex Offender Registries in the US
Sex Offender Registries are Manifestly Unjust
Sex Offender Registries Don’t Work
Sex Offender Registries Cost a Lot of Money
The militarization of police scares the hell out of me.
How about you?
This from the NY Times: Get the Military Off of Main Street.
From the OC Weekly:
Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, is set to issue an Aug. 4 ruling about whether prosecutors in the Orange County (CA) district attorney’s office (OCDA) and local law enforcement, including OCSD (Orange County Sheriff’s Department) deputies, cheated in hopes of securing the death penalty for Scott Dekraai, the shooter in the 2011 Seal Beach salon massacre — and, if so, what penalties should be imposed.
This is subsequent to a three-justice panel at the California Court of Appeals based in Santa Ana observing that jail deputies at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) “engaged in abhorrent conduct and were derelict in their duties.” That is: committing perjury; doctoring logs; unnecessarily firing weapons at inmates sitting on toilets; ignoring medical emergencies; bolstering the power of incarcerated organized-crime bosses; encouraging inmate-on-inmate violence; and spending work hours running private businesses, sleeping, surfing the Internet, watching TV or texting love interests.
Read the OC Weekly story here.
Here at the WCB, we’ve posted many, many articles dealing with the highly questionable scientific validity of most all forensic disciplines. I’m very happy to report that there is now a blog dedicated to that issue.
Dr. Michael Bowers is a practicing dentist and forensic odontologist in Ventura, CA, and a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems. His newest book, “Forensic Testimony, Science, Law and Expert Evidence” with Elsevier/Academic Press is available on Amazon.
Dr. Bowers has some refreshing and insightful views on the validity of forensics, and maintains a blog addressing the “junk science” that so many in the justice system refer to as “forensic science.” Please visit that blog here: Forensics in Focus.
[Editor's note: I, personally, refuse to call them forensic sciences. They are not sciences. Technologies? Disciplines? Perhaps, but they're not sciences.]
PS: I have reviewed Dr. Bowers’ new book Forensic Testimony – Science, Law, and Expert Evidence, and you can read that review here. I highly recommend it.
What can I say?
See the Philadelphia Inquirer story here.
Sue Luttner, editor of the blog OnSBS, has posted an article that points out the parallels between “old” and discredited arson science and the situation with child abuse experts who are stuck in a paradigm paralysis regarding shaken baby syndrome (SBS).
‘Hats off’ to Sue, because the parallels had never struck me before, but they are incredibly close.
Please see Sue’s article here.