Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas

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Introduction

The Justice system faces significant controversial dilemmas constantly. It may be impossible always to find the person who committed the crime or to prove the guilt. In some cases, laws may conflict, and interpretation of a concrete situation may fall entirely on the shoulders of the judges. For instance, the well-known case of King v. Maryland is a prime example of such ambiguity. Moreover, it is closely linked with ethical and legal issues, which may make it impossible or complicated to use DNA as proof. In that case, King was accused of rape, and DNA samples were used as primary evidence. King’s DNA collected during the arrest for an assault matched the DNA sample from an unsolved rape case. However, it took three independent courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, to provide a final decision. The Fourth Amendment and privacy issues seemed to conflict with Maryland DNA Collection Act. The divisiveness of that case may also be supported by the fact that even the judges of the Supreme Court did not come to a unanimous vote.

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Such complicated dilemmas prove that the judicial system already faces various problems related to the subjective interpretation of the law. In some cases, it is caused by vague wording of laws, and sometimes a case does not meet any of the existing criteria in the legal framework. Eyewitness testimony is surely an essential element of the judicial system, and it should be utilized. Nevertheless, even irrefutable physical evidence may sometimes be rejected by the court due to various legislation issues. Hence, even though eyewitness testimony should be taken into consideration by the court, it may not be sufficient to prove guilt in the absence of other evidence.

From the victim’s point of view, how did she come to the conclusion and identify Steve?

Steve Titus’ rape case is a tragic case, which indirectly led to his death. That case could serve as an example of possible harmful consequences of relying exclusively on the victim’s testimony, but I believe that there is more than just that. Nevertheless, it may be necessary for the judicial system to study the possible reasons why the victim’s memories of the attacker were incorrect. First of all, it may be required to acknowledge that rape is a horrible crime,e and it may significantly traumatize the victim. This alone makes it harder to identify the attacker. Furthermore, according to Elisabeth Loftus, a series of studies have shown that memories can be considerably influenced by the context in which the actual events took place and even by asking leading questions (Loftus, 2013). It may even be possible to seed memories of events that never happen. In Titus’ case, police showing the photograph of Steve may have influenced the victim’s memories. Loftus mentions research involving stressful conditions, which may be considered similar to being a crime victim, that has shown that “suggestive information” may also influence the memories of a “victim” (Loftus, 2013). Showing Steve’s photograph before the identification in court may be similar to the “suggestive information” in the study. The image of Steve Titus printed into the victim’s memory leading to him being charged.

When the officers talked with Steve how did they know they had the right person?

The officers could not know if they had the right person. According to some sources, they even planted false evidence. One of the police officers was accused of fabricating evidence and also died of heart failure six years after the event. The suspect was wearing a three-piece suit, and Steve claimed that he does not have any suits. Even though his car was similar to the attacker’s car, it had some significant differences. The victim also reported that there was a brown folder, and a similar folder was found in Steve’s car. However, he claimed that it was planted by the police officers to provide sufficient evidence and close the case. Considering these aspects, I believe that the officers relied mostly on the victim’s testimony. They did not know if they had the right person, but they might have wanted him to be the attacker so they could close the case.

If you had been selected on the jury what information would you have wanted to know that would aid you in making your decision guilty or innocent?

As I already mentioned, a victim’s testimony should not be considered sufficient evidence to convict a person. The judge should rely on other evidence, and if there are none, the accused should be found not guilty. As far as I understand, in that particular case, the judge relied not only on the victim’s testimony but also on factual evidence such as the brown folder in the car. If I had been selected on the jury, I would probably make the same decision. In that case, not only “false memory” influenced the decision but also false factual evidence. However, if I were a jury, I would never charge a person based exclusively on victim testimony. I would do that not only because of the “false memory” effect but also because of the possibility that the “victim” or an eyewitness could be lying for various reasons. Related factual evidence that supports and corresponds to the victim’s testimony may be the only sufficient information needed to make a decision.

What are your thoughts about a person’s testimony that the person being accused is the right person?

I agree entirely with Elisabeth Loftus’ views on memory and credibility of testimony provided by the victim or an eyewitness. I believe that such information may be used to support the decision, yet any charges should not be based on victim testimony alone. That case reminds me of a movie called “Jagten” or “The Hunt” with Mads Mikkelsen. The main character is also accused exclusively based on the testimony of a child. Moreover, other children and even adults get false memories related to the crime after leading questions and general tension in the community. These false memories extended to the degree that children claimed the main character took them to the basement in his house. When the police searched the place, there was no basement, and all charges were dismissed. That movie may also serve as a prime example of “false memories” and their influence on the justice system. Therefore, I firmly believe that a person’s testimony alone can never serve as sufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals dismissed charges from King in Maryland v. King case due to privacy issues and legislation conflicts despite the fact that his guilt was proven by DNA tests. If even DNA may not be used under certain circumstances, then a person’s testimony should not be considered sufficient without other evidence.

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Reference

Loftus, E. (2013). How reliable is your memory? YouTube. TED. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, July 24). Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, July 24). Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas. https://psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/

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"Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas." PsychologyWriting, 24 July 2022, psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas'. 24 July.

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas." July 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas." July 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/.


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PsychologyWriting. "Eyewitness Testimony: Problems and Dilemmas." July 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/eyewitness-testimony-problems-and-dilemmas/.