Archive for July 2010

NEW JERSEY CRIMINAL ATTORNEYS REVIEW REPORT OF SPECIAL MASTER APPOINTED BY NJ SUPREME COURT TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON ADMISSIBILITY OF EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY IN CRIMINAL CASES.

In a comprehensive report on the use of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases, a retired judge concludes in a report to the New Jersey Supreme Court that scientific reports provides convincing evidence that mistaken identifications in fact occur too frequently and that a revision of the procedural mechanics to deal with the evidence would mitigate against false identifications in future criminal trials. The report recommends pre-trial hearings similar to those in place dealing with physical trace evidence such as DNA and fingerprints which require a hearing to determine admissibility. Such a requirement would place an initial burden on the prosecution to demonstrate reliability prior to admission of the evidence before the jury. The current procedure involves an initial determination by the Superior Court, Law Division, Judge whether the out of court identification was impermissibly suggestive and, if yes, whether the flawed procedure resulted in a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.

In a review of the current procedure, the Special Master’s Report reflects that faulty memory significantly restricts the ability of a person to pick the perpetrator from a lineup of five or six suspects and then adding police misconduct only adds to the difficulty in accuracy. Some of the factors listed in the report are: memory encoding, storage and retrieval, the malleability of memory, the contaminating effects of extrinsic evidence, the influence of police interviewing techniques as well as many other factors.

Legal Quote of the Week:

And, oftentimes, excusing of a fault Doth make the fault worse by the excuse.

Shakespeare, King John I, I, 1596-1597