Sunday, November 12, 2006
John Jay College of Criminal Justice will host the conference "Off The Witness Stand: Using Psychology in the Practice of Justice" to mark the 100th anniversary of Hugo Munsterberg's "On The Witness Stand" on March 1-3, 2007.
Exactly one hundred years ago, Hugo Munsterberg, William James’s hand-picked successor as the director of Harvard’s Psychology Laboratory, rattled the gates of the criminal justice system, and announced that the social sciences wanted in.
Munsterberg offered to pay for his admission with an astonishing series of essays later collected in the book On The Witness Stand. Munsterberg saw the questions that bedeviled the legal system—“Can witness memory be trusted?”, “Can liars be exposed?”, “Can confessions be untruthful?”, “Can crime be prevented?”—and he claimed that his new science had the answers. He was met with derision in some quarters, with patronizing skepticism in others: “When the psychologists are ready for the courts,” Dean John Henry Wigmore wrote, “the courts will be ready for the psychologists.” The gates stayed locked.
Today, a growing litany of DNA exonerations makes us painfully aware that too often we get the wrong man, and let the real perpetrator go without charge. The DNA exoneration cases also tell us that the sources of many of our mistakes lie just where Munsterberg said they might: in faulty eyewitness testimony; in a failure to understand the nature of witness memory; in interrogation and investigation techniques that aggravate the chances for error.
More and more, we realize that if police investigators, litigators, and judges engage the scientists who are Munsterberg’s heirs—and if the scientists learn to value the lessons of justice practice—we may be able to develop the ability to produce better evidence and the ability to evaluate that evidence in the justice system.
“Off the Witness Stand” will bring scientists and justice system practitioners and policy-makers together to see where we stand now in answering Munsterberg’s call to inform practice with science (and science with practice), how we got here and where we are going. The conference will include presentations by psychologists, by practitioners from many points of the criminal justice compass, and by leaders in justice system reform on topics including : perception, witness memory and testimony, deception detection, confessions, forensic assessment, competency and treatment in forensic settings, expert testimony, jury decision making, courtroom procedures, crime prevention, and the influence of psychological research on the legal system.
Plenary and other invited speakers include former United States Attorney General Janet Reno, Thomas Grisso, Saul Kassin, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Loftus, John Monahan, Steve Penrod, Barry Scheck, and Gary Wells. More Info. . . [Mark Godsey]