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How much weight would you put on an eyewitness's testimony?

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kc76384 | Valedictorian

Posted May 14, 2013 at 2:40 PM via web

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How much weight would you put on an eyewitness's testimony?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 14, 2013 at 2:59 PM (Answer #1)

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Assuming that I am an investigator working a crime scene, I will not be disposed to believe that eyewitness testimony is always accurate and useful.  Instead, I will see it as one of many pieces of information, all of which must be evaluated and weighed.

We know that eyewitness testimony can be quite flawed.  For example, we know that an eyewitness who sees a crime happening can be emotionally impacted and can therefore have a hard time remembering accurately.  We know that eyewitnesses can become confused as they try to reconstruct and make sense of what they saw.  For reasons like these, I would not want to place too much emphasis on eyewitness testimony.

At the same time, it would not do to totally discount such testimony.  Eyewitnesses did see something happen, and they can be helpful in many ways.  Therefore, I would need to listen to the eyewitness’s testimony very carefully.  I would then compare it with the physical evidence found at the crime scene.  In cases where they two supported one another, I could be very certain of my facts.  If the two seem to contradict, I will need to think very carefully to make sure that I am assessing the physical evidence properly.

Thus, I will certainly want to take the eyewitness testimony seriously, but I will not want to assume that it is absolutely accurate in all cases. 

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