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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Oregon eyewitness law - your thoughts? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

S2000magician
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Yorba Linda, CA
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Last week I heard about Oregon changing the law regarding the use of eyewitness testimony.

Here's a blog I found that discusses it.

I was curious about what the various, incisive legal minds here on the Café think of the changes.
Dreadnought
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Athens, Georgia
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One of the things I learned early on as a young detective was an ADA who said she didn't want eye witness testimony unless it was corroborated by other hard evidence. She said that eyewitness testimony was pretty much useless. I have to say I kinda-sorta agree with her on one level. I have spoken to multiple eye witnesses to a crime and got as many different versions of the event and descriptions of the perpetrator.

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Peace

"Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum..."

Scott

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mastermindreader
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Seattle, WA
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Eyewitness evidence can be notoriously unreliable. For those who haven't read it, I strongly recommend Malcolm Gladwell's book, BLINK.

Also recall the 1980 Japanes film "Roshomon." (after which my old friend, the late TA Waters, named the ROSHOMON principle used in many mental and card effects, notably the Tossed Out Deck.)

Good thoughts,

Bob
LobowolfXXX
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La Famiglia
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It's definitely unreliable. I expect that most people who've been to law school have had a similar experience to one I had in an evidence class. Midway through a lecture, a guy came in with a water gun, said a few sentences to the teacher, squirted her, and left. We were all asked to describe them and what we recalled of the incident. I don't remember the specifics, but basically, immediately following the event, estimates of his height ranged from something like 5'6" to 6'2", weight between 140 and 225, shirt was blue, green, or black, hair was blonde or brown, and I don't think any two people agreed on exactly what he said.

That being said, I'm not sure I like the idea of making it easier for an eyewitness identification being withheld from the jury. It's true that as a threshold matter, the judge is the gatekeeper as far as reliability of admissible evidence, but the jury decides what weight to accord different pieces of evidence. I'd probably tend to err on the side of letting it in more often, but having the judge offer a strong jury instruction on the accumulated data of its questionable reliability. It's not like the "junk science" stuff that judges keep out; it's just empirically questionable. Doesn't feel the same to me, but I could probably be persuaded otherwise.
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mastermindreader
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Lobo-

I agree with you. It should always be left to they jury to determine the weight to give to a particular piece of eyewitness testimony. BUT, as you said, judges should always give appropriate instructions regarding the factors to consider in evaluating its reliability.

And, of course, as a defense attorney, I'd be sure that the jury was aware of the reliability problems.

Good thoughts,

Bob
Dreadnought
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Athens, Georgia
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Eyewitnesses are great for giving one a starting point for the investigation, if there is nothing else on which to go. But there is always something at the crime scene that can give one a strting point. Eyewitnesses can also be used to narrow the suspect pool. I think far too many police officers rely on eye witnesses which can lead to slip shod police work.

The only thing worse than relying on eyewitnesses is relying on a ci. Police officers and detectives have relied on the use of a ci so much that when they are taken out of their element they have no idea what they are doing. In other words, that ci might be useful in a gangland murder in the projects but when a murder occurs in white suburbia then the police have no ci on whom they can rely, and they find themselves suddenly having to rely on their dormant police and investigative skills, which is...at best... atrocious.

Peace and Godspeed.
Peace

"Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum..."

Scott

Would you do anything for the person you love?
tommy
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Here in England before 1984 there were far more miscarriages of justice with regard to ID etc and in 1984 the brought in “PACE”: Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and accompanying codes of practice. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and the PACE codes of practice provide the core framework of police powers and safeguards around stop and search, arrest, detention, investigation, identification and interviewing detainees.
This page lists the current and immediately previous version of each of the PACE codes:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication......e-codes/
If PACE is not conformed to then the evidence can be ruled inadmissible at trial. In my view its fair.

However ID evidence is powerful in effect because the witness's can be telling the truth and can be very convincing to the jury but they can be mistaken. A jury will tend to believe the ID witness even when you have a concrete alibi. Lets say you are with a dozen pals but two ID witness say they seen you somewhere else committing a crime. The jury thinks well the ID witness's have no reason to lie but you and your pals have to get you off.

The police arrested me once but it was not me! The cop showed a photo of me to a fellow and asked him, is that you? The fellow looked at the photo and said, yes! The cop then arrested him! Smile
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