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The Champion

November 2004 , Page 8 

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Trying Identification Cases: An Outline For Raising Eyewitness ID Issues

By Lisa Steele

Mistaken eyewitness identification is a major problem. Eighty-five percent of the convictions overturned by DNA evidence have involved a mistaken eyewitness.1 Courts, however, have been strongly resistant to restricting suggestive identifications, allowing experts to testify about identification and memory, and changing jury instructions to warn jurors about the factors leading to honest-but-mistaken identifications, preferring instead to rely on cross-examination and judicial discretion. As the DNA exoneration cases have shown, this simply is not working. Innocent men and women are going to prison based on faulty eyewitness testimony. 

The most common eyewitness identification issue arises where a witness or victim is asked to identify a stranger. If the witness knows the accused well, then counsel may have a case of a lying or biased witness, but the witness is unlikely to be honestly mistaken. If the witness knows the accused peripherally, then it is possible he or she transposed a f

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