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Kiz_Paws Bag Of Trix

Eye Witnesses To A Crime ... Reliable? Or No?

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A few years ago, I was involved in a Psychology experiment.

A person was set up in a study cubicle (common to the University study halls). This person was asked to remain there until called.

In the meantime, while sitting in the cubicle for a few moments, the person 'got familiar' with his/her surroundings. The cubicle was as sparse as a cubicle gets. A chair, a desk setting, partitions separating he/she in said cubicle from other study cubicles. A radio/cd player was on the shelf above the desk.

After a few moments of waiting, the person waiting in the cubicle had a visitor. This 'visitor' told the person waiting that they had been in the cubicle prior and had forgotten their radio/cd player. They took the radio and left quickly.

Five minutes passed.

Then ... the 'interviewer' arrived.

"Oh dear", exclaimed the interviewer. "My cd player/radio has disappeared! Do you know what happened?"

It was then that the person (waiting for the interviewer) had to describe the individual who took the radio/cd player....

The interviewer asked the following:

Who took the radio? I don't know
Was it a male or female that took the radio? Ummm, I think it was a female. Yes, it was a female.
How old was the female? I have no idea, maybe between 20-30 years old?
What color was her hair? Hmmm, I didn't really see her hair
Was she wearing a head covering? A hat, veil, kerchief? Well, now that I think of it, she wore a hoodie, and the hood was over her head.
So did you see what color were her eyes? No, I didn't. I probably did see them, but cannot recall.
So she wore a hoodie -- what else was she wearing? I am not sure, but I know it wasn't a skirt or dress. It was slacks.
Blue jeans? I can't remember
What about the footwear? What was she wearing on her feet? Boots? High heels? Sneakers? I only remember that they were white, but dirty... probably sneakers?
How tall was this female? I have no idea, she seemed to be stooped over somehow, kinda in a hurry, you know?
What all did the female say to you that enabled her to steal the radio? Hey, I didn't know she was stealing, you know! It was so fast! She said something about having used this cubicle for her studies and that she left the radio behind and then she just took it.

At that moment, the interviewer said that the whole incident was not really a theft, that the person being interviewed could relax.

Then the interviewer asked if there were any other details that may have been noticed (was the female wearing gloves, did she have piercings, did she have lipstick on, etc.) Of course nothing more could be added.

So there is the scenario. An EYE-WITNESS to a 'crime' could not accurately give a good description of the 'thief'.

This scenario took place with ten different people (being witness to a theft). Each time, the descriptions were quite vague. Some people remembered a little more, but basically, accurate descriptions of the 'thief' were unavailable.

Which makes one ponder about the believability of testimony in a court of law from a sworn eye witness...

Just food for thought that I thought I would share.

Comments? Leave 'em below.

Updated 11-04-2017 at 10:28 AM by kiz_paws



  1. Pompey Bum's Avatar
    Eyewitness accounts aren't all they're cracked up to be. Even more dangerous is that memory sometimes adds details that weren't there just to fill out the picture. Have you ever had to remember an important "either-or" situation (I wrote that check last month, right?) only to have your memory play it back to you both ways? Better to use logic/deduction first and memory/witness as a backup. On the other hand, eyewitness testimony is convincing to juries. Kind of makes you wonder how many innocent people may be sitting in prison. Scary.
  2. tonywalt's Avatar
    I would like to think I'm observant of people, maybe too observant.
  3. kiz_paws's Avatar
    I think that we live in a day and age where the forensic technology has become pretty unbeatable when proving crimes. But anyhow, that is another topic. We were discussing 'reliable witnesses', is there such a thing...

    I lean towards PB's point, about how juries are convinced sometimes by 'eye witnesses'. So I do wonder about "justice" ...
  4. Virgil's Avatar
    Boy a cross examining lawyer would have a field day with

    But you remembered the radio was taken and if that person were in a police line I bet you could have picked her out. No?
  5. kiz_paws's Avatar
    Gosh, Virgil, I really cannot say for sure ...
    What a pressure cooker that would be, as I would be afraid to point out the 'wrong' person... and THAT could mean someone innocent spending time in the clink?? ....
  6. Virgil's Avatar
    Yikes, don't do that.