This Week’s Report: “Eyewitness Testimony”

Eyewitness identification can be crucial in bringing criminals to justice, as Associate Editor Kenneth Jost notes in this week’s report. “There isn’t any evidence more powerful than when a witness sits on the witness stand and points to the defendant in court and says, ‘That’s the guy,’” law professor and former public defender Jonathan Rapping tells Jost.

But eyewitnesses can be wrong, too, and their mistakes can lead to grave miscarriages of justice. Misidentifications played a role in three-fourths of the 273 wrongful convictions confirmed in the past two decades by DNA exonerations, Jost writes, citing the work of University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett.

Jost’s report delves deeply into this central tool of criminal investigation, providing rich material for classes and papers in civics, criminal justice, psychology, ethics, current events, political science and law.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor