Friday, August 05, 2011

Why Carl Reynolds would make a lousy witness

At a conference in Atlanta, Texas Office of Court Administration chief Carl Reynolds was with a group of people walking to dinner when a man tried to steal the purse of one of the women in their company while brandishing a gun. At his blog Courtex, Carl describes the incident and makes this observation about the potential value of his own eyewitness testimony:
The women who had been actually assaulted were later interviewed by the police, but I was not. Had I been, my information would have been quite useless, in spite of the singularity and vividness of those few moments. I could not recreate anything more than a generic description of any of the four young men, nor describe their clothes. I think I could've picked out the gun if there was such a thing as a gun lineup, but that is about it. I learned later that my colleagues and I did not even agree on the number of young men.
That's pretty typical. Because so much of what we "see" is actually generated from our memory - as opposed to depicted like a camera shot through the eyeballs - eyewitnesses are much more reliable identifying people they knew previously than in situations like Carl's involving strangers.

BTW, the headline was in jest; love ya, Carl! ;)

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

I never believe the victim.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hogwash, 1:10! It's important that police view every victim statement completely uncritically and banish all skepticism or they can't do their jobs!

And if you think eyewitness testimony is 100% reliable, I've got some ocean front property in Arizona ...

DEWEY said...

GRITS, while you are selling, I've got a rice farm about 50 miles south of Galveston... BUT, several staged incidents have proven the inaccuracy of eyewitness statments.