The role of eyewitnesses testimonies in the criminal justice system
To reach the decisions on which person deserves what kind of punishment, the justice systems rely on the pieces of evidence that are presented to them (Gavett, 2011). These determine the extent to which one has violated the law and whether one is guilty. Such pieces of evidence can be presented in different ways depending on the nature of the case being handled. One of the ways in which evidence can be presented is through eyewitnesses' accounts as regards the cases in question. Over the years, different players have been having different opinions over the credibility of the accounts presented by eyewitnesses in courts of law. Such factors could be either internal or external factors. In some cases, the eyewitnesses may have little or no control over such factors.
Different scholars have studied human memory in a bid to understand how it works. Most of these studies suggest that human memory can be at times faulty as a result of the occurrence of errors at the different stages of memory. According to these studies, there are three distinct stages of memory. These studies indicate that in the different forms or methods in which eyewitnesses give their testimonies, including giving statements to the police or even viewing photo line ups, the errors that may occur in the processes may have the wrong people put behind bars (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2003). Also, in cases where the eyewitnesses report or share their testimonies with the police officer, there is a chance that even the police officers may flaw in one way or another.
This combination may get even worse. However, despite the flaws that have been identified regarding eyewitnesses' testimonies in criminal justice, these testimonies are still a crucial part of the criminal justice system. In some cases, especially those that involve defilement, rape and other crimes that infringe on individual persons' rights, the victims will always be involved in identifying the perpetrators as part of the key pieces of evidence required for conviction. This is especially important when suggestive or unnecessary circumstances have been created for purposes of identification (Gavett, 2011). These approaches have all been informed by faults that have been identified in previous cases, all that is related to testimonies that have been given by eyewitnesses. From these experiences, studies have now been focused on identifying some of the key ways in which testimonies by eyewitnesses may gain more credibility.
Different studies geared towards achieving this option have come up with great recommendations on how this objective may be achieved. The criminal justice systems in different places have started adopting some of these suggestions in a bid to improve the credibility of the information gained from eyewitnesses (Hurley, 2017). Further, it may be important to let the witnesses understand that investigations will go on regardless of the results of the lineup. Recording the processes when identification or provision of the testimonies is ongoing could be greatly important to enhance the credibility of such processes. When such processes are recorded, chances of having administrators allow any form of misconduct is minimized. Innocent suspects are therefore easily protected (McGough, 2012). The role of eyewitnesses continues to be extremely important in the criminal justice system.
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