By Matthew Mangino
United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion more than thirty years ago, “There is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says, ‘That’s the one!’”
Convincing yes-- reliable, maybe not...
More than 75,000 prosecutions every year are based entirely on eyewitness identification. Some of those identifications are erroneous. The fallibility of human memory is not a new concept. In the 1800’s, memory researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus’ “Forgetting Curve” illustrated how quickly memories fade as time passes. Additionally, in 1971, England’s Criminal Law Review Committee stated that relying on eyewitness testimony could lead to false convictions. One study by University of Virginia Law School professor Brandon L. Garrett found that eyewitness misidentifications contributed to wrongful convictions in 76 percent of the cases overturned by DNA evidence.