National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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Identifying the Culprit

Assessing Eyewitness Identification

Committee on Scientific Approaches to Understanding and Maximizing
the Validity and Reliability of Eyewitness Identification
in Law Enforcement and the Courts

Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

Policy and Global Affairs

Committee on Law and Justice

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                     OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was funded by a grant between the National Academy of Sciences and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number13: 978-0-309-31059-8
International Standard Book Number10: 0-309-31059-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014955458

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Room 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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COMMITTEE ON SCIENTIFIC APPROACHES TO UNDERSTANDING AND MAXIMIZING THE VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION IN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE COURTS

Co-Chairs

THOMAS D. ALBRIGHT (NAS), Professor and Director, Vision Center Laboratory and Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

JED S. RAKOFF, Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Members

WILLIAM G. BROOKS III, Chief of Police, Norwood (MA) Police Department

JOE S. CECIL, Project Director, Division of Research, Federal Judicial Center

WINRICH FREIWALD, Assistant Professor, Laboratory of Neural Systems, The Rockefeller University

BRANDON L. GARRETT, Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia Law School

KAREN KAFADAR, Commonwealth Professor and Chair of Statistics, University of Virginia

A.J. KRAMER, Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia

SCOTT McNAMARA, Oneida County (NY) District Attorney

CHARLES ALEXANDER MORGAN III, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine

ELIZABETH A. PHELPS, Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University

DANIEL J. SIMONS, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois

ANTHONY D. WAGNER, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Co-Director, Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, Stanford University; Director, Stanford Memory Laboratory

JOANNE YAFFE, Professor of Social Work and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of Utah

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

Staff

ANNE-MARIE MAZZA, Study Director and Director, Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

ARLENE F. LEE, Director, Committee on Law and Justice

STEVEN KENDALL, Program Officer, Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

KAROLINA KONARZEWSKA, Program Coordinator, Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

ANJALI SHASTRI, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow

SARAH WYNN, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND LAW

Co-Chairs

DAVID BALTIMORE (NAS/IOM), President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology

DAVID S. TATEL, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Members

THOMAS D. ALBRIGHT (NAS), Professor and Director, Vision Center Laboratory and Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

ANN ARVIN (IOM), Lucile Packard Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology; Vice Provost and Dean of Research, Stanford University

BARBARA E. BIERER, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

CLAUDE CANIZARES (NAS), Vice President and the Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

ARTURO CASADEVALL (IOM), Leo and Julia Forchheimer Professor of Microbiology and Immunology; Chair, Department of Biology and Immunology; and Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

JOE S. CECIL, Project Director, Program on Scientific and Technical Evidence, Division of Research, Federal Judicial Center

R. ALTA CHARO (IOM), Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin at Madison

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

DREW ENDY, Associate Professor, Bioengineering, Stanford University and President, The BioBricks Foundation

MARCUS FELDMAN (NAS), Burnet C. and Mildred Wohlford Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

JEREMY FOGEL, Director, Federal Judicial Center

HENRY T. GREELY, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics, Stanford University

MICHAEL GREENBERGER, Law School Professor and Director, Center for Health and Homeland Security, University of Maryland

BENJAMIN W. HEINEMAN, JR., Senior Fellow, Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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MICHAEL IMPERIALE, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan

GREG KISOR, Chief Technologist, Intellectual Ventures

GOODWIN LIU, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court

JENNIFER MNOOKIN, David G. Price and Dallas P. Price Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

R. GREGORY MORGAN, Vice President and General Counsel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

ALAN B. MORRISON, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Law, George Washington University Law School

CHERRY MURRAY (NAS/NAE), Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

ROBERTA NESS (IOM), Dean and M. David Low Chair in Public Health, University of Texas School of Public Health

HARRIET RABB, Vice President and General Counsel, The Rockefeller University

DAVID RELMAN (IOM), Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor, Departments of Medicine, and of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University and Chief, Infectious Disease Section, VA Palo Alto Health Care System

RICHARD REVESZ, Lawrence King Professor of Law; Dean Emeritus; and Director, Institute for Policy Integrity, New York University School of Law

MARTINE A. ROTHBLATT, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, United Therapeutics

DAVID VLADECK, Professor and Co-Director, Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown Law School

Staff

ANNE-MARIE MAZZA, Director

STEVEN KENDALL, Program Officer

KAROLINA KONARZEWSKA, Program Coordinator

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE

Chairs

JEREMY TRAVIS (Chair), President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York

RUTH D. PETERSON (Vice-Chair), Professor of Sociology and Director, Criminal Justice Research Center, Ohio State University

Members

CARL C. BELL, Staff Psychiatrist, St. Bernard’s Hospital; Staff Psychiatrist, Jackson Park Hospital’s Outpatient Family Practice Clinic; and Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

JOHN J. DONOHUE III, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Stanford University Law School

MINDY FULLILOVE, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Co-Director, Community Research Group, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

MARK KLEIMAN, Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Los Angeles

GARY LAFREE, Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and Professor, Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland

JANET L. LAURITSEN, Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri

GLENN C. LOURY, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University

JAMES P. LYNCH, Professor and Chair, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland

CHARLES F. MANSKI (NAS), Board of Trustees Professor in Economics, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

DANIEL S. NAGIN, Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University

ANNE MORRISON PIEHL, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Program in Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

DANIEL B. PRIETO, Director, Cybersecurity and Technology and Director, Defense Industrial Base Cyber Security/Information Assurance, Office of the Secretary of Defense Chief Information Officer

SUSAN B. SORENSON, Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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DAVID WEISBURD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Criminology, Law and Society and Director, Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, George Mason University; Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, The Hebrew University Faculty of Law

CATHY SPATZ WIDOM, Distinguished Professor, Psychology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York

PAUL K. WORMELI, Executive Director, Integrated Justice Information Systems

Staff

ARLENE F. LEE, Director

EMILY BACKES, Research Associate

MALAY MAJMUNDAR, Senior Program Officer

STEVE REDBURN, Scholar

JULIE SCHUCK, Senior Program Associate

DANIEL TALMAGE, Program Officer

TINA M. LATIMER, Program Coordinator

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

Acknowledgments

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PRESENTERS

The committee gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:

Karen L. Amendola, Police Foundation; Steven E. Clark, University of California, Riverside; Rob Davis, Police Executive Research Forum; Kenneth Deffenbacher, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Paul DeMuniz, Oregon Supreme Court; Shari Seidman Diamond, Northwestern University and American Bar Foundation; John Firman, International Association of Chiefs of Police; Ronald Fisher, Florida International University; Geoffrey Gaulkin, Special Master, State v. Henderson (NJ); Kristine Hamann, National District Attorney’s Association; Barbara Hervey, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Robert J. Kane, Supreme Judicial Study Group on Eyewitness Identification (MA); Saul Kassin, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Peter Kilmartin, State of Rhode Island; David LaBahn, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys; Elizabeth F. Loftus, University of California, Irvine; Roy S. Malpass, University of Texas at El Paso; Sheri Mecklenburg, U.S. Department of Justice; Christian A. Meissner, Iowa State University; John Monahan, University of Virginia; Steven D. Penrod, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; P. Jonathon Phillips, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Joseph Salemme, Chicago Police Department; Daniel L. Schacter, Harvard University; Barry Scheck, The Innocence Project; Jessica Snowden, Federal Judicial Center; Nancy K. Steblay, Augsburg College; Gary L. Wells, Iowa State University; John T. Wixted, University of California, San Diego; David V. Yokum, University of Arizona.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF REVIEWERS

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Art Acevedo, Austin, Texas Police Department; Aaron Benjamin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Vicki Bruce, Newcastle University; Jules Epstein, Widener University; Jeremy Fogel, Federal Judicial Center; Constantine Gatsonis, Brown University; Henry T. Greely, Stanford University; Peter Imrey, Cleveland Clinic; Robert Kane, Massachusetts Supreme Court; Timothy Koller; Office of the Richmond County District Attorney; Elizabeth Loftus, University of California, Irvine; Robert Masters, Office of the Queens County District Attorney; Geoffrey Mearns, Northern Kentucky University; and Hal Stern, University of California, Irvine.

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by David Korn, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and Stephen E. Fienberg, Carnegie Mellon University. Appointed by the National Academies, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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Preface

Eyewitness identifications play an important role in the investigation and prosecution of crimes, but they have also led to erroneous convictions. In the fall of 2013, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation called upon the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to assess the state of research on eyewitness identification and, when appropriate, make recommendations. In response to this request, the NAS appointed an ad hoc study committee that we have been privileged to co-chair.

The committee’s review analyzed relevant published and unpublished research, external submissions, and presentations made by various experts and interested parties. The research examined fell into two general categories: (1) basic research on vision and memory and (2) applied research directed at the specific problem of eyewitness identification.

Basic research has progressed for many decades, is of high quality, and is largely definitive. Research of this category identifies principled and insurmountable limits of vision and memory that inevitably affect eyewitness accounts, bear on conclusions regarding accuracy, and provide a broad foundation for the committee’s recommendations.

Through its review, the committee came to recognize that applied eyewitness identification research has identified key variables affecting the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. This research has been instrumental in informing law enforcement, the bar, and the judiciary of the frailties of eyewitness identification testimony. Such past research has appropriately identified the variables that may affect an individual’s ability to make an accurate identification. However, given the complex nature of eyewitness identification, the practical difficulties it poses for experimental research,

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
×

and the still ongoing evolution of statistical procedures in the field of eyewitness identification research, there remains at the time of this review substantial uncertainty about the effect and the interplay of these variables on eyewitness identification. Nonetheless, a range of practices has been validated by scientific methods and research and represents a starting place for efforts to improve eyewitness identification procedures.

In this report, the committee offers recommendations on how law enforcement and the courts may increase the accuracy and utility of eyewitness identifications. In addition, the committee identifies areas for future research and for collaboration between the scientific and law enforcement communities.

We are indebted to those who addressed the committee and to those who submitted materials to the committee, and we are particularly indebted to the members of the committee. These individuals devoted untold hours to the review of materials, meetings, conference calls, analyses, and report writing. This report is very much the result of the enormous contributions of an engaged community of scholars and practitioners who reached their findings and recommendations after many vigorous and thoughtful discussions. We also would like to thank the project staff, Karolina Konarzewska, Steven Kendall, Arlene Lee, and Anne-Marie Mazza, and editor Susanna Carey for their dedication to the project and to the work of the committee.

Thomas D. Albright and Jed S. Rakoff
Committee Co-chairs

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18891.
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Eyewitnesses play an important role in criminal cases when they can identify culprits. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of eyewitnesses make identifications in criminal investigations each year. Research on factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitness identification procedures has given us an increasingly clear picture of how identifications are made, and more importantly, an improved understanding of the principled limits on vision and memory that can lead to failure of identification. Factors such as viewing conditions, duress, elevated emotions, and biases influence the visual perception experience. Perceptual experiences are stored by a system of memory that is highly malleable and continuously evolving, neither retaining nor divulging content in an informational vacuum. As such, the fidelity of our memories to actual events may be compromised by many factors at all stages of processing, from encoding to storage and retrieval. Unknown to the individual, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted. Complicating the process further, policies governing law enforcement procedures for conducting and recording identifications are not standard, and policies and practices to address the issue of misidentification vary widely. These limitations can produce mistaken identifications with significant consequences. What can we do to make certain that eyewitness identification convicts the guilty and exonerates the innocent?

Identifying the Culprit makes the case that better data collection and research on eyewitness identification, new law enforcement training protocols, standardized procedures for administering line-ups, and improvements in the handling of eyewitness identification in court can increase the chances that accurate identifications are made. This report explains the science that has emerged during the past 30 years on eyewitness identifications and identifies best practices in eyewitness procedures for the law enforcement community and in the presentation of eyewitness evidence in the courtroom. In order to continue the advancement of eyewitness identification research, the report recommends a focused research agenda.

Identifying the Culprit will be an essential resource to assist the law enforcement and legal communities as they seek to understand the value and the limitations of eyewitness identification and make improvements to procedures.

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