Time to Accept that Expert testimony on eyewitness ID's is admissible

As evidence about the unreliability of eyewitness identifications has emerged, the courts have reluctantly started admitting expert testimony concerning the reliability of such identifications. The Court of Criminal Appeals last year approved the use of such testimony, even where the expert was not able to testify that the identification in that particular case was suspect. The truth is no one can provide that opinion – at least legitimately. The most any expert can do is identify the problems that contribute to erroneous eyewitness identifications, and discuss those that are present in the case.

That was the situation in a case the court of criminal appeals decided yesterday. The defendant attempted to produce testimony from a forensics psychologist concerning weapon focus. In the judge asked him whether he could testify that that factor affected the identification in the case, he could only testify that it was a possibility. The court excluded the testimony, finding the testimony did not fit the case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, basically finding that it had already addressed and resolved the issue. The expert testified as any expert would, on such testimony was admissible.

I don't know how helpful such testimony is, but it certainly should not be overlooked. Jurors generally want to believe crime victims, especially those who have been the victim of violent crime. Unfortunately, those are the cases were identifications are the least reliable. Anything on defendant can do to convince the jury of that must be done.

Hopefully the issue is settled. The question will now be how to use that testimony, and make it effective.

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