CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, December 25, 2009

Utah Expands Admissibility of Expert Testimony on Eyewitness Identifications

The Salt Lake Tribune covers the decision of the Utah Supreme Court here:

[A] judge refused to allow the expert, David Dodd, to testify and instead warned jurors about the dangers of eyewitness testimony with a jury instruction, which had been the common practice of courts for two decades, the opinion said.

Clopten appealed, and the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. But the justices on Friday said the circumstances of Clopten's case -- mainly prosecutors' heavy reliance on eyewitness testimony -- are "exactly those under which the testimony of an eyewitness expert is most helpful to a jury."

. . .

Chief Justice Christine Durham wrote for the court: "We are not mandating the admission of eyewitness expert testimony in every case. We expect, however, that in cases involving eyewitness identification of strangers or near-strangers, trial courts will routinely admit expert testimony."

Associate Chief Justice Matthew Durrant and Michael Wilkins dissented in part, saying the high court should not remove the discretion of trial judges and create a presumption in favor of eyewitness expert testimony.

The opinion is here. Hat tip: How Appealing.

| Permalink


A case and an ongoing story involving a woman who Identified her attacker in court with great confidence and certitude and later found that another male who left his dna at the scene was the real deal. She and the defendant/victim of her mis-identification tour with the Innocence Project and tell their respective stories. There is a book out and I believe that the name is "Making Cotton". Jennifer Thompson was the crime victim and Ronald Cotton the innocent man who spent 10.5 years in prison. The Innocence Project blog has a section on profiles of cases and a story about this case.

It is clear that expert opinion and testimony may aid the trier of fact in a stranger upon stranger observational identification.

Posted by: mpb | Dec 26, 2009 7:25:42 AM

Finally. It's about time that the courts started implementing some common sense. Its a shame that it has taken decades and only being practiced in Utah of all places.

Great atricle BTW.

Thanks for the info MPB. I tour with PROJECT: Not Guilty throughout Texas in the compacity of a victim of false eyewitness ID, police & prosecutorial misconduct. We are alway looking for "victims of the system" to take a stand.

Posted by: Thomas R. Griffith | Dec 26, 2009 12:29:11 PM

Post a comment