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- Donahue Lecture Series
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of mistaken convictions in the United States. Presently, more than 300 people have been exonerated through postconviction DNA evidence. The average sentence served in these cases, at the time of exoneration, was 13.6 years. Out of these 300 exonerations, eyewitness misidentification played a part in nearly 75% of the convictions. Scientific studies of eyewitness identification began to develop in the late 1970s, frequently the subject of psychological rather than legal journals. The Supreme Court has not directly revisited the topic of eyewitness identification since 1977, despite significant progress in related scientific research over the past thirty years. . .
This Note will discuss some of the most thoroughly studied causes of eyewitness misidentification and suggest that trial judges use their discretion under FRE 403 to exclude unreliable eyewitness-identification evidence. The first part of this Note will provide an overview of scientific research from the last thirty years relating to memory and eyewitness identification. The second part of this Note will discuss current procedures for combating misidentifications, analogous situations where FRE 403 is used for exclusion, and gatekeeping capacities of trial judges. Lastly, the third part of this Note will present arguments for using FRE 403 to exclude unreliable eyewitness identification evidence. . .