Sunday, October 5, 2014

Eye-witness identification: Time Magazine goes "Behind the messy science of police lineups," after a National Academy of Science report " recommends sweeping changes as to how police department conduct lineups as researchers remain at odds."

STORY: "Behind the messy science of police lineups,"  by reporter Josh Sanburn, published by Time Magazine  on October 3, 2014.

SUB-HEADING: "A National Academy of Sciences report  recommends sweeping changes as to how police department  conduct lineups as researchers remain at odds."

SUB-HEADING:  "In 1984, Thomas Haynesworth—an 18-year-old resident of Richmond, Va.—was accused of rape by five women, one of whom had identified Haynesworth by spotting him on the street. Later, four other victims picked his face out of a police lineup. That was the man who raped them, they said. One of them even told the jury, “He had a face I couldn’t forget. Haynesworth was convicted in three of the attacks and sentenced to 74 years in prison. But he was innocent."

GIST:  "According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification has been a factor in 72% of convictions that have been overturned by DNA testing. The National Registry of Exonerations, which works in conjunction with the University of Michigan, traces 507 of the 1,434 exonerations back to mistaken witness identification. But according to researchers, many police departments don’t know the underlying problems associated with troublesome lineups, don’t have the resources to conduct better ones, or are confused as to the best way to go about them. On Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit organization of experts and academics around the U.S., released the first comprehensive report to review decades of literature on lineups while offering sweeping recommendations on how they should be conducted, including ensuring that those administering them are not aware of the suspect’s identity, developing standard instructions for witnesses so as to not bias their pick, videotaping the ID process and recording confidence statements from witnesses at the time of an identification. “Eyewitnesses that lead to erroneous convictions are very disturbing,” says Tom Albright, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, who co-chaired the committee. “It’s bad for society if the bad guys go free, and it undermines the criminal justice system, which is a serious long-term problem potentially.”".........The NAS recommendations steer clear of the back-and-forth entirely. But most lineups researchers praised the report’s findings overall, including Wells. “This is a huge shot in the arm,” Wells ( Gary Wells, an Iowa State University professor who has been the leading researcher on lineups for years) says. “It’s a ringing endorsement of the science. And now we have the task of bridging the gap between the science and the legal system.”"

The entire story can be found at:

The National Academy of Science release: "A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

“Human visual perception and memory are changeable, the ability to recognize individuals is imperfect, and policies governing law enforcement procedures are not standard -- and any of these limitations can produce mistaken identifications with serious consequences,” said Thomas Albright, director of the Vision Center Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.  The report focuses on identifications of strangers rather than of family members or others well-known to the witness. Problems with eyewitness identifications have long been documented, and many of the cases in which DNA evidence later exonerated an innocent person involved at least one mistaken eyewitness. Research in recent decades has revealed many factors that can lead to such mistaken identifications, the report says. Conditions during the commission of the crime such as dim lighting, brief viewing times, stress, or the presence of a visually distracting element such as a gun or knife can influence people’s perceptions. Gaps in sensory input are filled by expectations that are based on an individual’s prior experiences with the world, which can bias perceptions. Studies also have shown that eyewitnesses are more likely to make mistakes when making an identification among people of another race rather than when making an identification of a person from the eyewitness’s own race. In addition, memory is often an unfaithful record of what was perceived through sight; people’s memories are continuously evolving. As memories are processed, encoded, stored, and retrieved, many factors can compromise their fidelity to actual events. Although the individual may be unaware of it, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted."


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.
I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:
I look forward to hearing from readers at:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;