Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors in eyewitness identification. While the law enforcement community is working to improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications, efforts have not been uniform and often fall short because of insufficient training, the absence of standard operating procedures, and the presence of actions and statements that unintentionally influence eyewitnesses. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate.
An ad hoc committee was convened to 1) critically assess the existing body of scientific research as it relates to eyewitness identification; 2) identify any gaps in the existing body of literature and suggest, as appropriate, other research questions to be pursued that will further our understanding of eyewitness identification and that might offer additional insight into law enforcement and courtroom practice; 3) provide an assessment of what can be learned from research fields outside of eyewitness identification; 4) offer recommendations for best practices in the handling of eyewitness identifications by law enforcement; 5) offer recommendations for developing jury instructions; 6) offer advice regarding the scope of a Phase II consideration of neuroscience research as well as any other areas of research that might have a bearing on eyewitness identification; and 7) write a consensus report with appropriate findings and recommendations.
This website contains unedited verbatim presentations made by meeting participants and is not an official report of the National Academies. Opinions and statements included in this material are solely those of the individual authors. They have not been verified as accurate, nor do they necessarily represent the views of other participants, the committee, or the National Academies.
April 24-25, 2014
*Karen L. Amendola, "Photo Arrays in Eyewitness Identification Procedures"
February 6-7, 2014
*Steven E. Clark, "Cost and Benefits of Eyewitness Identification Reform"
*Elizabeth Loftus, "The Memory Factory"
*John Monahan, "Evaluating Eyewitness Research in Court: Moving from General to Specific Inference"
*Jonathon Phillips, "Benchmarking Human Ability to Recognize Faces and People"
December 2-3, 2013
*Rob Davis, "A National Survey of Eyewitness Identification Procedures in Law Enforcement Agencies"
*Kenneth Deffenbacher, "A Critical Mass of Knowledge: Heightened Stress and Retention Interval"
*Shari Seidman Diamond, "The 'Kettleful of Law': Implications for Eyewitness Testimony"
*Kristine Hamann, "Testimony on Behalf of the National District Attorney's Association"
*Saul Kassin, "On the "General Acceptance" of Eyewitness Testimony Research: Surveying the Experts"
*Roy Malpass, "Simultaneous and Sequential Lineups"
*Christian Meissner, "Cross-Racial Identification and the Influence of Person Description"
*Daniel L. Schacter, "The Science of Memory"
*Nancy Steblay, "Meta-Analyses of Estimator and Systems Variables"
*Gary Wells, "Overview of Estimator and System Variables in Eyewitness Identification"
*John Wixted, "Signal Detection Methodology"
*David V. Yokum, "Research on Jury Instructions: An Experimental Test of the Novel NIJ Instruction"
The Committee on Scientific Approaches to Understanding and Maximizing the Validity and Reliability of Eyewitness Identification in Law Enforcement and the Courts released its report, Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification, at a public briefing on October 2, 2014.
Opening Statements of committee co-chairs Thomas D. Albright and Jed S. Rakoff
Thomas D. Albright (NAS)
Professor and Director, Vision Center Laboratory and Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Jed S. Rakoff
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
William G. Brooks III
Chief of Police
Norwood Police Department
Joe S. Cecil
Division of Research
Federal Judicial Center
Laboratory of Neural Systems
Brandon L. Garrett
Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law
University of Virginia Law School
Rudy Professor of Statistics
College of Arts and Sciences
Indiana University, Bloomington
Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia
Oneida County (NY) District Attorney
Charles Alexander Morgan III
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Yale University School of Medicine
Elizabeth A. Phelps
Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science
New York University
Daniel J. Simons
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois
Anthony D. Wagner
Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Co-Director, Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging
Stanford Memory Laboratory
Professor of Social Work and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry
University of Utah