The Use of Eye-Witness Testimony in Criminal and Civil Court Cases

Misinformation and Eyewitness Recollection

Misinformation can simply be used to alter an eyewitness' recollection. False memories can be implanted into a person's mind and subsequently submitted in court. This means that in legal procedures, eyewitness recollection is not a highly credible source of information. More mechanisms and procedures for authenticating this information are required.

Trustworthiness of Juvenile Witnesses

In legal procedures, juveniles are among of the most trustworthy witnesses. In certain high-profile cases, the testimony of eyewitnesses has determined the defendant's innocence or guilt. In other cases, the memories recalled by the defendants during police interrogation are also used as the only proof of innocence or guilt.

The Role of Therapy in False Memories

Therapy can either be used to instill or uncover false memories in an individual. However, it is not clear how the memories are planted in a witness outside psychology practice. The fact that people have the ability to alter a person's memories has led to a reduction of the value of witness accounts in court cases. This loophole can also be used by individuals who were found guilty on the basis of an account provided by one person. These people can easily come up with claims that their memories or those of witnesses were manipulated to their disadvantage.

Alien-Abduction Stories and Memory Tricks

Abramsky (n.p) gives an example of alien-abduction stories as a result of one of the tricks that memory can play on both the person and others. Some experts have accepted stories that men and women give of their encounters with aliens. Professor Richard McNally, an experimental-psychopathologist, found out that though the body may become inactive in some instances such as sleep, a part of the mind remains conscious and is able to interact with phenomena outside the mainstream.

False Memories in Sexual Abuse Cases

A human being can remain sincere and honest while talking about non-existent phenomena. Just like the phenomenal alien-abductees, people in sexual abuse cases can only remember intense discomfort when time passes. Loftus blames the false memories on suggestive questioning by the clinicians and attorneys during court proceedings. Their minds come up with powerful explanatory frameworks. They then become resistant to reinterpretation.

Training False Memories in Court Witnesses

Outside legal proceedings and clinical practice, one can train an individual's mind to master certain memories by building on the intense discomfort. Suggestive questioning can easily train a child's mind to believe that they have been sexually abused. Once they become resistant to reinterpretation, they will be able to retell the same story over and over again when presented in court as witnesses.

The Influence of Visual Imagination on False Memories

Individuals with a vibrant visual imagination are likely to remain with the falsely recovered memories for a long time. According to Loftus, such people tend to have problems concentrating in the presence of extroverted personalities such as cross-examination lawyers and therapists. They are usually preoccupied with the reality of their claims and are thus unlikely to change their accounts.

Evaluating the Truth Value of Eyewitness Testimony

Loftus' article and the readings portray memory as a phenomenon that is subject to manipulation, either by the person's mind itself or by other people. This means that the value of eyewitnesses in determining whether a person is guilty or not has been overestimated for a long time. There is a need to reevaluate the truth value of eye-witness testimony in criminal and civil court cases. Human memory may not be a permanent phenomenon that is only created through interaction with reality as people have always believed.

Works Cited

Abramsky, Sasha. “Memory and manipulation: The trials of Elizabeth Loftus, defender of the wrongly accused.” LA Weekly, August 19, 2004. Accessed November 23, 2017.

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