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Eyewitness Identification Reform: Psychological Science and Public Policy

Steven Clark, University of California, Riverside
Jul 14, 2011 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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It is well-established that eyewitnesses make mistakes that result in false convictions of innocent people.  This link between false identifications and false convictions has led research psychologists to develop new methods for conducting eyewitness identification procedures.  Several states and local jurisdictions have already begun to implement new procedures as a matter of law.  However, a close analysis of the experimental data shows that the reformed eyewitness identification procedures not only reduce the risk of false identifications, but also reduce the rates of correct identifications.  Policy decisions regarding the implementation of reformed procedures must therefore consider the trade-off between false identifications that are avoided in exchange for correct identifications that are lost, in a cost-benefit analysis.   Such an analysis, presented here, considers the probative value of eyewitness evidence, the base rates of guilt and innocence, and the social costs of eyewitness errors.  Such analyses provide a starting point for policy-makers to assess the costs and benefits of adopting new procedures.

Steven E. Clark is a Psychology Professor at the University of California, Riverside, where he conducts experimental research on human memory and eyewitness identification.  This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, has been published in Law and Human Behavior and the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and other scientific and scholarly journals.  Professor Clark has been involved in over 200 criminal and civil cases, has consulted with both prosecution and defense attorneys, and has testified as an expert in Federal and State courts in California, Washington, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin.  His current research examines the costs and benefits of eyewitness identification reforms, and the interface between science and public policy.

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