Criminal Justice System: Forensic Evidence Analysis

Words: 1689
Pages: 7

The Reliability of Memory in the Criminal Justice System

Chelsea Tatz

Manhattanville College


Eyewitness testimony plays a key role in the criminal justice system. While forensic evidence has begun to play a part role in criminal investigations, it the memories of witnesses that those in the justice system rely on (Brainerd, C.J., 2013, pg. 547). Witness memories of events and their ability to identify potential suspects are the foundation used to direct investigations and subsequent trials (Brewer, N., 2006, pg. 4). Juries also rely on the memories of eyewitnesses on the stand, when making decisions in regards to the innocence or guilt of a culprit; thus the stakes are high when an
…show more content…
First, is witness confidence reliable? Witness confidence is often associated with reliability in the criminal justice system. Second, what effect does post-event information have on witness memory? After an eyewitness witnesses a crime committed their testimony is not immediately given. An interview and/or a trial is likely to take place some time after the crime was observed, leaving witness memories open to post-event information, information acquired after an event takes place, which has the potential to alter a witness's’ memory. Third, there is the concern of how the criminal justice system may affect witness accuracy and the question of what can be done in the justice system to better the reliability of witness memory? Witness testimony is an essential component of evidence used in the criminal justice system, yet its accuracy is constantly being called into …show more content…
A witnesses’ ability to remember pertinent information related to the crime witnessed is likely to fade over time, as the storehouse makes room for other memories (Loftus, E.F. pg. 586). Due to the long process that takes place during an investigation, there is a significant period of time where memory fades and is susceptible to distortion due to the presence of post-event information (PEI), which is where new information, “can become incorporated into the witnesses’ memory and can cause an alteration, distortion, or even a supplementation to the memory (Loftus, E.F. pg. 587).” Every time a memory is reactivated reconsolidation takes place and a consolidated memory is reactivated in order to restabilize the memory and incorporate significant new information into it. The process of reconsolidation, however, also leaves a memory labile, or susceptible to change, and it is during this period of time that PEI can negatively affect a memory and decrease that memories accuracy (Rindal, E.J. et al. pg.