Session: (WITHDRAWN) Understanding and Improving Effectiveness of Eyewitness Identification Procedures (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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107 (WITHDRAWN) Understanding and Improving Effectiveness of Eyewitness Identification Procedures

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 6:30 PM-7:30 PM
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Joanne Yaffe, PhD, University of Utah, Chad Dodson, PhD, University of Virginia, Brandon Garrett, JD, Duke University and Karen Kafadar, PhD, University of Virginia
Eyewitnesses provide important information to police in thousands of criminal cases when they identify suspects in lineups. However, research has shown that eyewitnesses can be mistaken when they are asked to try to identify culprits in lineups: they often identify fillers who are not even suspects, or still worse, they identify innocent people, many hundreds of whom have been wrongly convicted. Unfortunately, while scientists have researched eyewitness memory for decades and have uncovered a range of reasons why eyewitnesses can be wrong, the current science offers few practicable solutions for how to improve eyewitness accuracy. In 2014, an important National Academy of Sciences Report called for new types of interdisciplinary scientific research to be done. This project, sited across three university settings, is organized by four distinct approaches to scholarly inquiry--social work, psychology, statistics, and law--collaborating to investigate eyewitness identification procedures and make recommendations for improvement.

We believe that the best way to make progress in addressing this scientific and legal problem is using an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on a variety of research methods. These methods include research synthesis to map existing research according to the variables investigated to identify areas of adequate and inadequate research efforts; experimental psychology to investigate factors impacting memory of faces and eyewitness accuracy; law to investigate the effect of eyewitness confidence on jury decision-making and how to best present eyewitness evidence in the courtroom; and statistics to develop new statistical models for designing and analyzing multi-factorial experiments.

This interdisciplinary collaboration also works with law enforcement partners and senior advisers, including judges, lawyers, policymakers, and field experts. The outcomes of this research collaboration are leading to a comprehensive state-of-the-evidence review; detailed recommendations for police professionals, lawyers, and judges; recommendations the design and statistical analysis and reporting of eyewitness identification studies; and practical recommendations for police professionals, attorneys, and judges, including improved lineup practices, changes in jury instructions, and the use of both expert and eyewitness testimony in the courtroom.

This roundtable session will present a dialogue about the overlap and intersection of different disciplinary approaches to a fundamental problem in our criminal justice system--that of erroneous convictions which are often disproportionately associated with racial and ethnic minority status. Presenters will describe their primary research questions, methods, and results, as well as how those questions and methodological approaches have been shaped and adjusted by the interdisciplinary collaboration. Our goal for the session is to stimulate conversation about shared contributions and challenges of research of this topic, ways to further collaboration across disciplines, and ways to generalize to other Grand Challenges topics.

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