Eyewitnesses are wrong a third of the time, but juries loves them. Five ways to help place such testimony in proper perspective are:
1. Utilize double-blind line-ups, in which the people conducting the line-up do not know who the suspect is, either;
2. Tell victims the suspect may not be in the line-up at all;
3. Have judges tell juries how error-prone visual recollection can be;
4. Have experts tell juries; and
5. Conduct a hearing without the jury to decide if the testimony is reliable enough to be admitted as evidence.
The U.S. Supreme Court will look at this issue when it decides Perry v. New Hampshire, No. 10-8974.
[Dominique Strauss-Kahn will apparently not be prosecuted for a related reason. When the only witness for the prosecution has made inconsistent statements about whether she planned to profit from the New York hotel incident, her account is not believable beyond a reasonable doubt.]
“Often Wrong But Rarely in Doubt: Eyewitness ID’s Will Get a Fresh Look,” The New York Times, August 23, 2011, p. A14. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/us/23bar.html