Discuss the various identification methods used in the criminal justice system. Discuss some of the flaws with eyewitness identifications?
Eyewitness identification can take place by a few different methods that can consist of the one on one identification right after a crime occurs. The process is where the police find a potential suspect and the victim is brought to either identify or dismiss the person as a suspect. The next form is the lineup, which can either be a live lineup of people or a photo lineup. In either of the lineups, it is vital to have 5 to 6 people that are of a similar race, age, height, hair and eye color participating in the lineup (LTSD 400, 2019). The importance is not to have one person stand out amongst the others that are in the lineup. Depending on the amount of evidence that was gathered in a case the lineup may be a significant piece of evidence against the suspect. Eyewitness identification has come under fire in the past decade because of the efforts of the innocence project working to free innocent people convicted of crimes. According to the innocence project of the more than 350 wrongful convictions that were reversed based on DNA, 70% of those cases had mistaken eyewitness identifications (Eyewitness Misidentification, n.d.). The misidentifications that have been discovered have led many to question the reliability of these lineups. During these lineups’ witnesses have picked out innocent people, people that are a known innocent lineup member, or the inability to pick anyone out of the lineup (Brewer & Palmer, 2010).
A significant issue with lineups is associated with the memory of the witness for the case and how time effects that. A person’s memory will begin to fade away after the first few hours of an incident which can lead to mistakes (LTSD 400, 2019). There also has been recent debate over how the lineups are administered by law enforcement as well. The traditional lineups have been conducted by officers that are familiar with the case and the suspect. Officers familiar with the suspect may unintentionally with subtle cues influence the witness towards the suspect in the lineup (LTSD 400, 2019). In recent years there have been changes to attempt the influence of the officer on a witness. The introduction of the double-blind lineup has become popular where the officer is not familiar with the case or any of the members of the lineup (Brewer & Palmer, 2010). The procedure should help with reducing officers’ cues, but the fact is that the memory of the witness will continue to be a factor leading to misidentifications.
What is the difference between physical evidence and circumstantial evidence? Which do you believe is more reliable to a jury? Discuss why.
Physical evidence is the evidence that is a tangible piece of evidence that is found at crime scenes. The evidence can consist of weapons used, blood stains, DNA, or any piece that can be collected and taken away from the scene by investigators as evidentiary value (US Legal Inc., n.d.). The evidence is anything that you can physically see, touch, and feel which is able to give a clear picture of what actually occurred at the scene. Physical evidence is generally called direct evidence, and circumstantial evidence is called indirect evidence. Circumstantial evidence implies that a person committed a crime and an example would be the person was seen leaving the scene of the crime (Circumstantial Evidence, 2014). Overall, physical evidence has a more impressible effect on the jury because it is something that can be seen and felt.
What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to relying on DNA evidence in a criminal case?
DNA evidence has been proven to be a very reliable tool that can be used to either convict or eliminate a suspect at the scene of a crime. The first thing with DNA is that biological evidence must be collected at the crime scene to have the ability to extract the DNA (Advancing Justice, 2017). Law enforcement must have the proper training to collect these samples and to make sure that it is packaged correctly, as not to contaminate the sample. The second part to the evidence is there must be a sample either collected from the suspect or at some point it must have been entered into a DNA database. The good thing is that DNA is now entered into the Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS that contains federal, state, and local databases to have a comparison of DNA samples with convicted offenders (Advancing Justice, 2017). This powerful tool has led to the apprehension and conviction of many offenders that were involved in cases that had basically gone cold for investigators.
Advancing Justice through DNA technology: using DNA to solve crimes. (2017). Retrieved from: https://www.justice.gov/archives/ag/advancing-justice-through-dna-technology-using-dna-solve-crimes
Brewer, N., & Palmer, M. (2010). Eyewitness identification tests. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15(1), 77–96. doi:10.1348/135532509X414765
Circumstantial Evidence. (2014). Retrieved from: https://law.cornell.edu/wex/circumstantial-evidence
Eyewitness Misidentification. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://innocenceproject.org/causes/eyewitness-misidentification
LSTD 400, Criminal Legal Process Lesson Five, (2019). American Military Public University System. Retrieved from: https://edge.apus.edu/portal/site/394028/tool
US Legal, Inc. (n.d.). Physical evidence law and legal definition. Retrieved from: https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/physical-evidence/
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