This is a new feature for us. Each week, we'll single out a website honor it for doing its best to continuously and responsibly address problems within the criminal justice system. This week's honoree is the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog.
We all know and experience the unreliability of memory -- from small matters, like where we've parked the car, to larger issues, like what someone said before they died. Families are broken apart when children and parents disagree; marriages disintegrate; we lose our jobs; we lose our place in a book. Every day, in moments large and small, we're confronted by the frailty of memory, yet prosecutors lean heavily on the vaguest perceptions of past events, often those of traumatized people who have an understandable stake in the way future events will unfold.
A consistently interesting look at this issue is the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog, which points out that "faulty eyewitness identifications are a well-known problem in the American criminal justice system, as demonstrated by over 200 exonerations brought about by the Innocence Project -- a full 75% of which are attributable to false eyewitness IDs."
To address the problem, the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog examines law and policies addressing eyewitness IDs, including police procedures, the admission of eyewitness testimony in the courtroom, and the findings of social science research regarding eyewitness memory.
The most recent entry at the blog, which is updated sporadically, examines the Telfaire jury instruction, the most commonly used in the U.S.