Hum

Atia of the Julii, I call for justice!

The Unreliability of Memory

This is fascinating: http://www.andreaharner.com/archives/2009/03/eyewitness_test.html

It never ceases to amaze me how powerful asking for forgiveness can be, and in kind, forgiving. It equally ceases to amaze me how stubborn some people can be in refusing to ever admit being wrong. Because that would be weak. To me, it’s cowardice; it takes more balls to swallow pride, than it is to ignore the issue.

I remember when I was still a student at UCI that there was a professor who was doing some controversial research pertaining to the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. She would ask witnesses highly suggestible questions after they had viewed a traumatic scene, and voila! The witnesses would “remember” it the way she suggested. Apparently she got harassed a lot for such research, from media and law enforcement alike.  Supposedly one reporter would actually hound her, and sit in all her classes, trying to sensationalize her work as depicting all eyewitnesses as lying, incompetent boobs.  I *think* the researcher in question was Professor Elizabeth F. Loftus, but I’m not sure. Oh, ha, I didn’t finish watching the second video above, but Professor Loftus is in it.

Even among my friends, it’s kind of interesting to see who is more consistent and who is not. When there’s a common memory among multiple friends, there’s usually divergence. Then there’s always that person who, after a few months, will pass off someone else’s words and ideas as their own.

False imprisonment is pretty much the biggest reason why I’ve mellowed out with the death penalty. I know, I’m liberal, I should be against it by default, but with particularly heinous crimes, I just can’t help it. But with so much room for error in our system, the death penalty just isn’t right. Which makes Texas and Japan particularly scary to me, both liberal democratic governments. I’ve read that Japan has a prosecution rate over 95%. In other words, if you’ve been accused, and you stand trial, you are almost certainly going to be found guilty. The defensive rationale is “only the truly guilty get that far” or some BS like that. So don’t get to that stage. Because after that, they can execute your ass with only a few hours prior warning (look it up). Then Texas is Texas. There was one case, I wish I could be more specific, but I don’t recall the names anymore, where an “arson expert” who was about as much of an expert as I am at the bbq grill, pretty much singlehandedly lead to the execution of the accused. Multiple real experts from out of state looked at the evidence, and determined that the first guy had no idea wtf he was talking about.

Anyway some links:

PBS’s site for Jennifer’s case

Edutopia links on witness testimony research


About The Author

Comments

Leave a Reply