Source of article 2's Company - Magnus Insights.

As I noted in a previous post, research into eyewitness accuracy was a starting point in my business partner/wife’s study of psychology and the law. I suppose it is normal in the course of things that science, specifically psychology, was ahead of the law. Law is usually based on precedents, while social science is based experimentation and hard data. Well, as of 2017, the law took a big step forward to catch up and utilize the science of the past 50 or so years of study in this area. In January of 2017, the Deputy Attorney General for the United States (Sally Q. Yates) issued a “Memorandum for Heads of Department Law Enforcement Components All Department Prosecutors” within the U.S. Department of Justice. The memorandum’s subject is “Eyewitness Identification: Procedures for Conducting Photo Arrays” and was a revision to its 1999 publication on this topic. As noted in the prior post, gauging the witness’ confidence in the identification he or she makes is an important component in evaluating her/her accuracy. However, beyond this, as the memo and related guidelines accompanying the memo point out, prosecutors and law enforcement need to update their procedures to ensure that the evolution of the research and practice of gathering eyewitness reports are taken into consideration. For example, the report points out that sequential administration of suspects in a photo array generally results in more accurate identifications than does the use of simultaneous administration of suspects. Other areas covered by the best practices procedures include: Location of the Photo Array; Photograph of the Suspect; Selection of Filler Photographs; Method of Presenting Photographs; Administrator’s Knowledge of the Suspect; Instructions to Witness; Multiple Witnesses; Administrator Feedback; and Documentation. It is important, of course, for attorneys involved in criminal matters with an eyewitness to be aware of these guidelines. Ensuring that law enforcement is up to date on the techniques utilized is critical to a case. Civil attorneys also have cases in which there is an eyewitness. Reviewing the literature on eyewitness accuracy is a worthwhile exercise in these cases to ensure the best case outcomes. It is impressive to see the DOJ take on a topic such as this. The memo and supporting materials, including an appendix of the science behind the newly recommended procedures, are worthwhile reading.