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Eyewitness Testimony

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OPINION
September 8, 2011
To many Americans — including many jurors — eyewitness testimony is the gold standard when it comes to evidence. But studies demonstrate that a variety of factors can lead to the misidentification of criminals. Nationally, more than 75% of convictions that have been overturned because of DNA evidence involved erroneous eyewitness testimony. Now the influential New Jersey Supreme Court has instructed police and judges to take into account an array of responses that might prevent mistaken identifications.
ARTICLES BY DATE
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 7, 2013 | By Ashley Powers
In 1979, Brenda Anderson testified that a young man with whom she had gone to high school shot her elderly neighbor to death. Thirty-four years later, Anderson's sister Sharon took the stand and said the account, which helped send the young man to prison, was a lie. On Thursday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sided with Sharon Anderson and threw out the conviction of Kash Delano Register, who maintained his innocence during more...
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NATIONAL
January 11, 2012 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
The Supreme Court refused to put new legal limits on the use of questionable eyewitness testimony at trials, ruling Wednesday that juries must weigh the evidence and decide what is true. The 8-1 decision came as a disappointment to some criminal law experts who say false identifications by eyewitnesses are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the problem, but disagreed that the right solution was to have judges consider the reliability of all eyewitness testimony prior to trials.
NATIONAL
November 30, 2012 | By Kim Murphy
SEATTLE - It had been a night so full of horror that Sherl Hilde might understandably have had trouble recalling the most crucial detail: Who was the man who shot her and her husband late one night at a remote campground in southern Oregon? Was it the man they had turned out of their campsite earlier in the day? Or someone else? Eventually, Hilde identified the campsite squatter, Samuel Lawson, as the man who'd shot her through the window of her camp trailer later that night and then killed her husband as he called 911. But she didn't do so with certainty until after she twice failed to pick Lawson out of a photo lineup, insisted she hadn't seen “their” faces, and said she hadn't seen the perpetrator when he entered the trailer because it was too dark.
NEWS
February 11, 1995 | MAURA DOLAN, TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER
The distraught witness recalled her hour of terror in vivid detail for the jury: Two men abducted her from a parking lot, yanked down her jeans and raped her in the front seat of her car. Asked to identify one of the rapists, the victim pointed at Frederick R. Daye, the defendant. "There is no doubt in my mind," she testified. Without realizing it, the San Diego woman had identified the wrong man.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 7, 2013 | By Ashley Powers
In 1979, Brenda Anderson testified that a young man with whom she had gone to high school shot her elderly neighbor to death. Thirty-four years later, Anderson's sister Sharon took the stand and said the account, which helped send the young man to prison, was a lie. On Thursday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sided with Sharon Anderson and threw out the conviction of Kash Delano Register, who maintained his innocence during more...
OPINION
January 13, 2012
The Supreme Court this week made it harder for criminal defendants to challenge one of the most common flaws in the criminal justice system: the use of mistaken eyewitness evidence. The 8-1 decision needlessly narrows the ability of judges to suppress eyewitness testimony marred by inconsistency or other indications of error, leaving the task of evaluating the reliability of such evidence to juries. Statistics show that 76% of 250 convictions overturned since 1989 because of DNA evidence involved mistaken eyewitness identification.
BOOKS
February 4, 1990 | Jonathan Kirsch
" . . . a superb short course in contemporary history, a who's who of the 20th Century and an essential repository of eyewitness testimony."
NEWS
August 22, 2000 | HECTOR BECERRA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Kevin Lee Green, DeWayne McKinney, Herman Atkins and now Arthur Carmona. All were convicted of serious crimes, largely on the testimony of eyewitnesses. All were incarcerated. And all walked free--some, decades later--before their sentences ran their course.
NATIONAL
November 30, 2012 | By Kim Murphy
SEATTLE - It had been a night so full of horror that Sherl Hilde might understandably have had trouble recalling the most crucial detail: Who was the man who shot her and her husband late one night at a remote campground in southern Oregon? Was it the man they had turned out of their campsite earlier in the day? Or someone else? Eventually, Hilde identified the campsite squatter, Samuel Lawson, as the man who'd shot her through the window of her camp trailer later that night and then killed her husband as he called 911. But she didn't do so with certainty until after she twice failed to pick Lawson out of a photo lineup, insisted she hadn't seen “their” faces, and said she hadn't seen the perpetrator when he entered the trailer because it was too dark.
OPINION
January 13, 2012
The Supreme Court this week made it harder for criminal defendants to challenge one of the most common flaws in the criminal justice system: the use of mistaken eyewitness evidence. The 8-1 decision needlessly narrows the ability of judges to suppress eyewitness testimony marred by inconsistency or other indications of error, leaving the task of evaluating the reliability of such evidence to juries. Statistics show that 76% of 250 convictions overturned since 1989 because of DNA evidence involved mistaken eyewitness identification.
NATIONAL
January 11, 2012 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
The Supreme Court refused to put new legal limits on the use of questionable eyewitness testimony at trials, ruling Wednesday that juries must weigh the evidence and decide what is true. The 8-1 decision came as a disappointment to some criminal law experts who say false identifications by eyewitnesses are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the problem, but disagreed that the right solution was to have judges consider the reliability of all eyewitness testimony prior to trials.
OPINION
September 8, 2011
To many Americans — including many jurors — eyewitness testimony is the gold standard when it comes to evidence. But studies demonstrate that a variety of factors can lead to the misidentification of criminals. Nationally, more than 75% of convictions that have been overturned because of DNA evidence involved erroneous eyewitness testimony. Now the influential New Jersey Supreme Court has instructed police and judges to take into account an array of responses that might prevent mistaken identifications.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
June 11, 2004 | Cynthia Daniels, Times Staff Writer
Cheri Sainz doesn't think of herself as a hero. In fact, she's not even convinced that she made a difference. But Los Angeles County law enforcement officials disagree. To them, Sainz did something important: She testified. A 25-year-old wife and mother, Sainz witnessed two gang-related shootings within five months. Earlier this year, her testimony in two trials helped convict both killers, who were sentenced to prison.
NEWS
August 22, 2000 | HECTOR BECERRA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Kevin Lee Green, DeWayne McKinney, Herman Atkins and now Arthur Carmona. All were convicted of serious crimes, largely on the testimony of eyewitnesses. All were incarcerated. And all walked free--some, decades later--before their sentences ran their course.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
June 6, 1999 | DANA PARSONS
The reader was, if nothing else, succinct: "Enough on the Carmona case. You have gone way past reporting, past even advocacy, and have arrived at mania. You are biased and one-sided. Move on." That sentiment doesn't represent anywhere near the majority of my mail on the Arthur Carmona case, but it's a fair challenge. Why have I written, as of today, eight columns in the last month about Carmona's conviction on two armed robbery counts?
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 12, 1995 | DAVID R. BAKER, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
With taped snippets of a phone conversation and eyewitness testimony, prosecutors Wednesday set out to prove that a former teacher seduced a boy in her Thousand Oaks neighborhood when he was just 15 years old. But Gloria Goldman's attorney told a Superior Court jury that the accusations were untrue, calling them the "locker-room" boasts of a troubled youth who wanted to impress his friends.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 7, 1999 | DANA PARSONS
For the last several weeks, I've been thinking constantly about a 17-year-old boy I've never met. His name is Arthur Carmona, and he's been in the Orange County Jail for nearly 15 months, charged with two armed robberies. Last October, a jury convicted him. Next week he faces possible sentencing to more than 30 years in prison.
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