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When Eyewitnesses Are Mistaken? Essay

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Updated: Apr 29th, 2020

The United States criminal justice system is highly dependent on witnesses who give an account of what they experienced in a certain case. Philosophers and law experts have argued that eyewitness statements contain rich information to base the case upon; however the quality and integrity of the statements have been challenged. According to Schechter eyes witnesses’ testimonies/statements are the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States Judicial system. Psychologists have developed five “sins” of memory and have blamed suggestibility as the contributing factor to wrong convictions (Schacter 78).

The operation of the judicial court system is that it digs for information from the people who witnesses the occurrence of a particular crime, the convictions and the decision that will finally be made is dependent on the witness’s consistency. Eye witnesses are at a better position to explain the crime scene, they were there when the unlawful action was taking place; however people understand and analyse situations differently. The differential analysis makes people offer different opinions thus misleading the criminal justice system.

The suggestibility sin of the brain as suggested by psychologists suggest that people have the chances of creating some false memory when they have observed a certain action; people are more likely to be influenced by the suggestion given by someone else thus deviating from what they really observed. The sin has led to distortion in testimony thus the reliability of such testimony becomes a problem. For a long duration, court systems have treated eye witness cases with much dignity and integrity, they seem to have ignored the fact that the nature of people can led to change, moulding, or distortion of information from a witness.

When witness information has been distorted or moulded to suit a particular person, the net effect is un-reliable judicial system; when the judicial system fails the test of time, the main effect is felt by the people. Citizens of a nation feel secure and can invest in a particular country if they are aware that the judicial system in the country is stable and can stand with justice (Gallace).

When a suspect has been brought for identification, eye witnesses feel the burden that they need to identify someone among the lined people; this feeling creates a sense of anxiety and the likelihood of choosing the wrong person are high. Although human memory is respected for being able to handle large volumes of information, it has been noted that the information can be distorted leading to wrong convictions. It is true that some people have been punished for mistakes they never did and some are set free yet they are guilty.

In most cases, criminal justice players (police, jury, and courts) are not in the scene crime, they develop their case from what they have been told as wells the situation of after-the-scene. The way of criminal justice operation thus calls for high levels of integrity of the people giving information, it is from the information that police act and prepare their files.

Other than the effects of suggestibility, fifth memory “sin,” people tend to forget issue of a situation fast. The rate of remembering issues is dependent of the psychological well-being of the witness. For example in the event that a witness is stressed or depressed, he is more likely to give misleading information than the case would have been when on sober minds (Thompson 12).

Works Cited

Gallace, Michael. Sin #5: Suggestibility. New York: Artist Book Progress, 2007.Print.

Schacter, David. The seven sins of memory. Insights from psychology and cognitive neuroscience. New york: Wiley, 1999. Print.

Thompson, Jennifer. I Was Certain, But I Was Dead Wrong. New York: The Houston Chronicle, 2007. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "When Eyewitnesses Are Mistaken?" April 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/when-eyewitnesses-are-mistaken/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'When Eyewitnesses Are Mistaken'. 29 April.

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