Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"I misremember it well": Eyewitness deficiencies

Just as the Texas House prepares to expand the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday, the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer brings news of another study on the deficiencies of eyewitness recall, this one demonstrating that not only were older witnesses more likely to recall past events incorrectly, they "were more certain of their wrong memories than their younger counterparts."

Most of the recent exonerations based on DNA evidence in Texas have been as a result of inaccurate eyewitness testimony, including James Waller, an innocent man who spent 24 years in prison based on child molestation charges before DNA tests exonerated him. This study provides further evidence that new innocence reforms are needed as part of any new "tuff" laws regulating sex offenders. If the system convicts an innocent person, after all, the injustice is double: not only is an innocent person punished, but the real child molester presumably goes free.

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