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Research & Design: ChatGPToolkit for NYU Faculty

Research & Design: ChatGPToolkit for NYU Faculty

Research • Design • App •  Master's Thesis • 2024

iWITNESS

A Simulation-Based Learning App Helping Jurors Evaluate the Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony

Concept Overview

Eyewitness misidentifications have been the leading contributing cause of wrongful convictions, playing a major role in about 70% of DNA exoneration cases (Rakoff & Loftus, 2018). Jurors place immense weight on eyewitness testimony, despite its fallibility. According to Jones et al. (2020), “jurors are hesitant to acquit a defendant when there is eyewitness evidence, even when that evidence is weak.” Eyewitnesses are compelling and relatable; they take time out of their day to be helpful, testifying in a stressful courtroom with seemingly little motive to lie. However, as persuasive and confident as eyewitnesses may be in their identifications, they can still be wrong.

 

In fact, eyewitnesses can go awry from the moment they view a crime all the way up until they testify in court (Wells & Loftus, 2013). Due to factors like stress, the presence of a weapon, post-event information, and memory deterioration (Helm, 2021), eyewitnesses can unconsciously be led astray. I hope to help jurors understand how various factors may affect the accuracy of eyewitness identifications so they can be prepared to critically examine eyewitness testimony. If jurors were aware of the potential biases, perceptual miscues, and memory issues at play for eyewitnesses in various conditions, they could scrutinize eyewitness accounts without simply accepting them at face-value. In turn, maybe fewer people would be wrongfully convicted based on the testimony of eyewitnesses.

 

References

Helm, R. K. (2021). Evaluating witness testimony: Juror knowledge, false memory, and the utility of evidence-based directions. The International Journal of Evidence & Proof, 25(4), 264-285. https://doi.org/10.1177/13657127211031018

 

Jones, A. M., Bergold, A. N., & Penrod, S. (2020). Improving juror sensitivity to specific eyewitness factors: judicial instructions fail the test.

Psychiatry, psychology, and law : an interdisciplinary journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 27(3), 366–385. https://doi.org/10.1080/13218719.2020.1719379

 

Rakoff, J., & Loftus, E. (2018). The Intractability of Inaccurate Eyewitness Identification. Daedalus, 147(4), 90-98. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/daed_a_00522

 

Wells, G. L., & Loftus, E. F. (2013). Eyewitness memory for people and events. In R. K. Otto & I. B. Weiner (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Forensic psychology (pp. 617–629). John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

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