The title of the post links to the 60 minutes piece on eyewitness testimony.
In a nutshell, the piece starts off by examining the case of a young man twice convicted of raping a woman. He was convicted, got a new trial, his attorneys brought the real rapist into the courtroom, and the woman still identified the person from the first trial. After serving ten years in prison Ron Cotton was released when his attorneys located DNA from the crime and it matched the person who they accused of the rape at the second trial.
How can a person misidentify her assailant in a courtroom twice, even when being shown the real assailant?
If you don't know the answer to that question then you've never read The Seven Sins Of Memory.
Click on the title to the Amazon link to the book. If you are a conscientious prosecutor, judge, or defense attorney, you will spend a weekend reading this book and will realize that just about everything that happens in an identification case is not only done incorrectly, but is done in a manner that just about guarantees that the witness's testimony is scientifically worthless.
Memory is not like a video tape that is replayed of the event. It is something far less tangible and far more subject to influence than most of us realize.
In the case reported on by 60 Minutes one of the crucial errors made by the police, unintentionally for sure, was the detective verifying to the woman that the person she picked out of the photo lineup was the same person she identified at the live lineup. That made the courtroom identification a foregone conclusion, and yet as science will tell us, the courtroom identification under those circumstances was basically worthless and totally unreliable. Yet there isn't a Judge around with the guts to sustain a defense attorneys challenge to these types of procedures. With so many people convicted on such unreliable evidence, what judge wants to let the genie out of the bottle?
It will only be when the police are better trained, that eyewitness identifications will become more reliable. So while innocent people are shuffled off to prison daily on the basis of what is considered the strongest evidence, but is in fact the weakest and most unreliable garbage, it will only be when the police find it in their self interest to start arresting the right people that change will occur.
And how sad is that?