There have always been strong suspicions that innocent individuals were being convicted and sent to prison on the basis of misremembered information from eyewitnesses. Nowadays, DNA tests can often establish whether the individual found guilty was actually responsible. In the USA, such tests have shown that over 200 convicted people were actually innocent. Mistaken eyewitness identification was responsible in over three-quarters of cases.
Why are eyewitnesses so prone to making mistakes when providing information about a crime they have observed? One explanation is that most crimes occur suddenly and unexpectedly, and so eyewitnesses often fail to attend fully to events. Insufficient attention is undoubtedly an important factor. However, as we are about to see, what happens after the crime is also important.
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