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Researchers examine ways to predict eyewitness accuracy

When a crime occurs in Georgia, in some cases, law enforcement will ask a witness to choose a suspect from a lineup. This may be from photos, or it might be a physical lineup. While a number of people have been convicted using eyewitness testimony as the strongest evidence, organizations such as the Innocence Project have cast doubt on its reliability.

Research has shown there are several common errors people make. They may identify an innocent suspect. They might choose someone who is innocent and only chosen by law enforcement to fill in the lineup. They might also fail to identify the person altogether even when the person is in the lineup. Eyewitness memory researchers have long looked for a way to predict the accuracy of a witness identification. While law enforcement and the legal system are usually impressed by a witness who makes an identification with speed and confidence, researchers have been less convinced. However, more recent research indicates that confidence can be a marker of accuracy.

The problem is that in order to achieve this correlation between confidence and accuracy, certain conditions must be met that are often not followed. For example, the suspect should not stand out and the individual conducting the lineup should be unable to identify the suspect. Without these and other conditions, even confidence may not be reliable.

This is one of several errors that could lead to a person's conviction despite being innocent. Mishandling evidence or improper questioning could also lead to this outcome. A person who is facing charges for robbery, assault or any other type of crime may want to consult an attorney about a strategy for defense. In some cases, evidence may be difficult for laypeople to interpret, and having an expert witness could help. Some people may also want to discuss the option of a plea bargain.

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