Eyewitness identification: 'I noticed you paused on number three.'
An eyewitness to a crime is the most damaging evidence the government can present in a criminal trial. The impact on the jury of a witness pointing to the defense table and saying “that is the man right there – I will never forget his face” is overwhelming. The prosecutor can often support the veracity of the identification by providing testimony that the witness previously identified the accused in some sort of a photo spread. If the witness is a victim, police officer or some other witness sympathetic to the government, the testimony usually goes something like this: “The officer showed me the lineup and I picked the defendant before the spread hit the table.”
This article is published as Nettles, W., Nettles, Z. & Wells, G.L. “Eyewitness identification: 'I noticed you paused on number three.' The Champion, (1996): 10-12, 57-59. Posted with permission.