Carolyn Semmler & Neil Brewer
With the power to convict as well as exonerate, eyewitness testimony has been a fundamental form of evidence in legal proceedings throughout the world for hundreds of years. However, since the memories of witnesses are not infallible, it is imperative that attorneys, judges and experts have a solid understanding of the science underlying those memories, in order that all can better assess the credibility of such testimony.
This chapter comprehensively addresses the full range of issues on the subject, including expert witness testimony on the science of memory. Particular topics include:
Scope of eyewitness memory for people and events
Factors that impact recognition memory
Encoding information in memory
Illustrative application of modern scientific literature to a variety of legal cases to demonstrate how the literature could have aided in those decisions
Qualifications for expert witnesses on eyewitness identification, including suggested voir dire questions for direct and cross
Identification of those aspects of the field where the causal mechanisms remain unclear
Comprehensive literature review of reliable and valid research into the science of memory
Storing information in memory
Treatment of eyewitness memory in forensic application
Guidance on the minimally acceptable principles and methodology for eyewitness evidence
Criterion to help identify inadequate expert witness testimony on eyewitness identification
Discussion of key areas in the science of memory not well understood by judges and lawyers
In addition to explaining the known fundamentals of eyewitness memory, as well as the qualifications and literature necessary to provide expert testimony on it, this Assessment of Eyewitness Memory for People and Events chapter offers a survey of cases from the United States, Canada, UK and Australia that examine the proper and improper introduction of testimony. Together with a comprehensive literature review of the most recent developments in the field, this invaluable resource for experts, lawyers and jurists illustrates how this dynamic and growing body of scientific endeavor will continue to provide important and often counter-intuitive outcomes for the evaluation of memory for people and events in legal cases.
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