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Current & Recent Research at Penn Law

Author: Bergold, Amanda
Penrod, Steven
Yarbrough, Angela
Citation: Amanda S. Nicholson, Angela M. Yarbrough & Steven D. Penrod, Jury Decision Making and Eyewitness Testimony, in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIM. JUST. (G.J.N. Bruinsma, D.L. Weisbrd, eds. 2014)
Date Published: 2014
Date Posted: 08/18/2016
Subjects: Law and Social Sciences
Keywords: Jury Decision Making
Abstract:
Jurors are assigned the arduous task of examining
and processing copious amounts of evidence – in
light of their legal instructions – to determine an
appropriate verdict. While jurors do a relatively
good job at sorting through the evidence and the
law, the complex nature of evidence may lie
outside jurors’ “common knowledge,” and additional
education may aid jurors as they process
such information. This is especially true in the
domain of eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony
is extremely influential despite its potential
to be unreliable. Eyewitnesses may appear
very confident in their identification of the perpetrator,
yet be completely mistaken. Indeed, over
75 % of wrongful convictions overturned due to
DNA testing have been linked to faulty eyewitness
identifications. Unfortunately, traditional
safeguards, such as cross-examination of eyewitnesses,
result in little improvement in jurors’
ability to discriminate between accurate and inaccurate
eyewitness identifications. This has led the
courts to establish additional safeguards against
wrongful convictions based on faulty eyewitness
identifications including the use of expert testimony
and detailed instructions on how to evaluate
eyewitness testimony.