Wrongful Convictions and the National Academy of Sciences: From Forensics to Eyewitness Identification
74 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2015 Last revised: 2 Apr 2019
Date Written: February 1, 2015
In creating a test to admit eyewitness identifications, the Supreme Court in Manson v. Brathwaite held as its most important value the reliability of this evidence. Thirty-five years later, hundreds of tests, research projects, and papers have shown exactly how unreliable the Court’s admissibility test is. The Supreme Court has failed to live up to its own standard.
The National Academy of Sciences new Report, Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification, may be the needed impetus to change the nationally governing standard. The Report takes readers above and beyond the current Manson test. Indeed, Identifying the Culprit predicts a national impact on our executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Five years from today, the U.S. Supreme Court may use these findings to completely overhaul the admission of eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.
This piece provides a brief sketch of a prior NAS Report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, and the impact it has had on all branches of government. The growing influence and reforms of the field of forensic science then lead into questions of the reliability of eyewitness evidence. The role of innocence cases ultimately culminates in a discussion of Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification and the impact of these connected Reports.
Keywords: forensics, eyewitness, police, courtroom, evidence
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