WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Saturday, September 05, 2009

EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY

Eyewitness testimony is really great, isn't it?

Here's another story in the Herald of a 15 year old boy (no less) imprisoned in 1983 for life for a rape that new forensic evidence shows he didn't commit.

Here's the point: It's one thing for us to acknowledge that we knew a whole lot less about the weakness of eyewitness testimony 25 years ago than we know today.
But we don't see any acknowledgment by prosecutors today about the weakness of such testimony. Time and again we hear "It's a good case; the victim ID'd the defendant."

When will they learn?

Flying home tomorrow. Long trip.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prosecutors may not learn, but juries are demanding more and more physical evidence nowadays with the CSI effect. I see it every time I pick a jury on a circumstantial or witness testimony case. Some people will not convict on testimony alone.

Anonymous said...

So what do you suggest Rump? Don't file any one witness cases without forensic evidence? That's not much of a solution either.

Whining is all to easy and hindsight, is, well, 20/20. Constructive criticism is a whole other matter. So tell us what you want the State to do.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Slobodan? Slivovitz? Schmaltz?

I'll take a Bud Light.

Alex Michaels at the Hard Rock for tonight's midnight show. Dis will be Bullllsheeeeeeet!

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, I have been in Iceland myself over the past several days and have confirmed your identity. Of course, some portraits of our mutual friend Benjamin Franklin would help ensure it remains a secret.

Rumpole said...

BTDT- I want
1) Showup identifications excluded from evidence.

2) Police trained and certified in eyewitness identification.

3) All line-ups videotaped WITHOUT a pre-interview.

4) Photo lineups conducted properly and NOT using a six person array which is inherently flawed.

5) A jury instruction on the problems with eyewitness identification akin to the instruction on a defendant's statement.

6) Judges and prosecutors trained in the problems of eyewitness identification. They should all be required to read "The Seven Sins Of Memory", and if you read it you will understand the magnitude of the injustice we are perpetrating in the name of Justice.

That's a start.

Anonymous said...

I would add to BTDT's list:

7) The ability to present expert testimony on memory and eyewitness identification problems to the jury.

Anonymous said...

For the record, the Defendant in this case made multiple admissions as well, to the police and his mother. This was not just eyewitness testimony only.

Anonymous said...

Rump---

Your suggestions are not without merit. I wholeheartedly agree that officers and prosecutors need to be better trained. I disagree with several of your other suggestions which I'd be happy to explain if you like.

I appreciate the clarification. Several people have suggested (in other posts) that prosecutors not proceed on eyewitness testimony alone. I think such a hard and fast rule would be nonsensical and unnecessarily rule out the state's ability to prosecute legitimate cases simply because an offender is smart enough to not leave physical evidence. Glad to see you're thinking, as usual.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Rump
Isn't it true that in almost all the cases where DNA cleared a defendant, that there were not only eyewitness IDs but "confessions" , usually from mentally challenged or beaten defendants. How many now have been proved NOT GUILTY, 200 or so, all with victims saying the guy between the lawyers did it. As much as society wants to beleive we can identify someone by face, in a stressful situation like being a crime victim, eyewitness testimony and identification may be the LEAST relieable evidence at all.
D. Sisselman

Anonymous said...

How about the fundamental flaw with allowing cops to prepare photo line-ups with no third party verification of the identification process. At the very least, the process should be videotaped, and the witness should be asked on line to confirm that he/she has had no conversations about the process before it is undertaken.
In these days of cops being immune from SAO prosecution unless there is a videotape of misdeeds which appears on T.V. as well as an internal affairs procedure that is designed (not by IA, but by the union contracts) to create an obstacle course for police prosecution, due process requires protection from police tactics.
These days, no other group, even us, is less highly regarded than cops, and with due cause.

Rumpole said...

I wouldn't say "almost all" the cases of wrongfully convicted people contained false confessions. But enough did to draw attention to a recognizable phenomenon.

John said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog! You should check out a favorite blog of mine - Professor Leonard Birdsong, a law professor located in Orlando, Florida! His writing is quite humorous too - I think you'd enjoy it! http://birdsongslaw.com/

Anonymous said...

In the latest Broward case, there were several confessions made over successive interrogation sessions, each one more incriminating than the previous one and all containing inaccuracies and mistakes.

Anonymous said...

The lineup is easily solved.

You have 3 different line ups, and one has the defendant included.

I like the video taping of the lineups. Keep pre-interviews just video tape them.

Every step in any police investigation should be video taped.