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The Novel New Jersey Eyewitness Instruction Induces Skepticism but Not Sensitivity

PLoS ONE 10(12): e0142695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142695

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 14-17

17 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2014 Last revised: 15 Dec 2015

Athan P. Papailiou

University of Arizona

David V. Yokum

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law; University of Arizona - College of Science

Christopher T. Robertson

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law; Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics

Date Written: December 9, 2015

Abstract

In recent decades, social scientists have shown that the reliability of eyewitness identifications is much worse than laypersons tend to believe. Although courts have only recently begun to react to this evidence, the New Jersey judiciary has reformed its jury instructions to notify jurors about the frailties of human memory, the potential for lineup administrators to nudge witnesses towards suspects that they police have already identified, and the advantages of alternative lineup procedures, including blinding of the administrator. This experiment tested the efficacy of New Jersey’s jury instruction. In a 2×2 between-subjects design, mock jurors (N = 335) watched a 35-minute murder trial, wherein identification quality was either “weak” or “strong” and either the New Jersey or a “standard” instruction was delivered. Jurors were more than twice as likely to convict when the standard instruction was used (OR = 2.55; 95% CI = 1.37–4.89, p < 0.001). The New Jersey instruction, however, did not improve juror's ability to discern quality; rather, jurors receiving those instructions indiscriminatingly discounted “weak” and “strong” testimony in equal measure.

Keywords: jury instruction, State v. Henderson, eyewitness testimony, diagnosticity

Suggested Citation

Papailiou, Athan P. and Yokum, David V. and Robertson, Christopher T., The Novel New Jersey Eyewitness Instruction Induces Skepticism but Not Sensitivity (December 9, 2015). PLoS ONE 10(12): e0142695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142695; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 14-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2475217 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2475217

Athan P. Papailiou

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721
United States

David V. Yokum

University of Arizona - College of Science ( email )

1040 E. Fourth Street
Tucson, AZ 85721-0077
United States

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Christopher T. Robertson (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.arizona.edu/faculty/getprofile.cfm?facultyid=714

Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics ( email )

23 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 02155
United States

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