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Science Matters

Eyewitness Testimony:
Perception and Memory on Trial

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Click here to download Jeff Sherman's presentation. (4.4MB, PPT)

Click here to download Steven Clark's presentation. (5MB, PPT)

Eyewitness testimony is at the foundation of our judicial system. In criminal cases that lack physical evidence eyewitness testimony is often essential to securing convictions. But how accurate is it? While supporters contend that when properly used eyewitness testimony remains a dependable and indispensable judicial tool, this viewpoint is not universal. In 2007 legislation was introduced in California seeking to limit the use of eyewitness testimony based on studies that indicate eyewitness error occurs in half of all wrongful convictions.

What is the science of perception and memory that lie at the core of eyewitness testimony? Is the practice scientifically sound or inherently flawed? What are the consequences of various policy decisions?

Featured speakers presented the science behind eyewitness testimony, how we form memories, and how our perceptions influence how we remember. In this light, a panel of experts representing different viewpoints discussed the science and policy implications of this current issue at the forefront of public concern.

Featured panelists included: (click name for bio)

Conan Nolan—moderator

Reporter, NBC4

Steven Clark, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, University of California, Riverside

Jeff Sherman, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis

John Van de Kamp, Esq.

Chair of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice

Julie L. Hamilton

Division Counsel, Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles
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This program is supported, in part, by the DEA Educational Foundation.

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