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Statistical Issues and Reliability of Eyewitness Identification

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FOSW01 - The nature of questions arising in court that can be addressed via probability and statistical methods

Among the 330 wrongful convictions identified by the Innocence Project that were later overturned by DNA evidence resurrected from the crime scene, 238 (72%) involved eyewitness testimony. Courtroom identifications from an eyewitness can be extremely powerful evidence in a trial. Yet memory is not a perfect ideo recording of events; one's recollection of the events surrounding an incident is even less reliable. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences issued a report evaluating the scientific research on memory and eyewitness identification. The Committee, comprised of researchers (statisticians, psychologists, sociologists) and judicial system personnel (judges, attorneys) reviewed published research on the factors that influence accuracy and consistency of eyewitnesses' identifications, conducted via laboratory and field studies. I will describe the research on memory and recollection, shortcomings in the statistical methods used in evaluating laboratory studies, and Committee recommendations for better statistical evaluation, standardization of procedures and informing judicial personnel of factors that can negatively
impact accuracy of eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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