About This Project
Eyewitnesses can provide important leads to police in thousands of criminal cases, when they identify suspects in lineups. However, much research has shown that eyewitnesses can be mistaken when they are asked to try to identify culprits in lineups: they often identify “fillers” who are not even suspects, or worse, they identify innocent people, many hundreds of whom have been tragically wrongly convicted while the true perpetrator goes free. Unfortunately, while scientists have researched eyewitness memory for decades and have uncovered reasons why eyewitnesses can be wrong, the current science offers few practicable solutions for how to improve the accuracy.
The NRC 2014 report, Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification, summarized the state of Eyewitness Identification at that time. The report also identified areas in need of research regarding:
- Systematically reviewing the research that has been conducted in various journals;
- identifying the complex and interactive effects of different variables, both those that are, and are not, under the control of law enforcement officers;
- developing appropriate analytical methods for drawing inferences from data on eyewitness-related experiments; and,
- evaluating the effectiveness of current and proposed law enforcement practices for implementing eyewitness identification (EWI) procedures.
This report describes the research that has been conducted since the NAS report appeared in 2014. It offers recommendations for police professionals, lawyers, and judges, as well as for the design and statistical analysis and reporting of eyewitness identification studies, and hence a more solid foundation for eyewitness identification evidence. With the assistance of law enforcement partners and senior advisers including judges, lawyers, policymakers, and field experts, this report demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary research collaborations that lead to advances in summarizing results of systematic reviews, conducting and analyzing data from memory retrieval experiments, and practical recommendations for police professionals, attorneys, and judges, including improved lineup practices, changes in jury instructions, and the use of both expert and eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.
University of Virginia
University of Virginia
Duke Law School
University of Utah