Saturday, September 9, 2006
The Elon University School of Law recently hosted a meeting of national experts on eyewitness identification. The meeting was organized by the American Judicature Society’s Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy.
At the meeting, the scientists contributed their expertise to the development of field studies to test the effectiveness of procedures that have improved the accuracy of eyewitness identification in controlled lab studies conducted by social scientists.
Mistaken identification was the leading cause of wrongful conviction in more than 75 percent of the 183 DNA exonerations in the United States to date. Through laboratory studies, scientists have identified procedural controls which may increase the reliability of eyewitness identifications, but there have been few scientifically sound field studies that evaluate the procedures in actual police practice. The AJS Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy hopes the meeting will help to design controlled field studies that can test the procedures in practice.
The field study protocols, as well as their results, will be reviewed by the AJS Commission on Forensic Science and Public Policy, a commission of leading scientists, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement professionals. The American Judicature Society established the Institute and appointed the Commission to address critical issues at the intersection of science and the law. The Commission is co-chaired by former Attorney General Janet Reno, former FBI director William Webster, and leading scientist Steve Feinberg of Carnegie Mellon University. [Mark Godsey]