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
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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
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Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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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
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
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
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
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND LAW
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
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
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
ANNE-MARIE MAZZA, Director
STEVEN KENDALL, Program Officer
KAROLINA KONARZEWSKA, Program Coordinator
COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
BOXES, FIGURES, AND TABLES