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The effectiveness of judicial instructions on eyewitness evidence in sensitizing jurors to suggestive identification procedures captured on video

  • Alena SkalonEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Beaudry
Article

Abstract

Objectives

One of the legal safeguards designed to educate jurors about eyewitness evidence is judicial instructions. However, their effectiveness in sensitizing jurors to eyewitness accuracy and suggestive identification procedures captured on video is unknown.

Methods

Participants (N = 232) watched the video-recorded identification and testimony of one of 16 genuine eyewitnesses. We varied the suggestiveness of the identification procedure, whether they saw an accurate or inaccurate identification, and whether or not they received Victorian judicial instructions about eyewitness evidence.

Results

Participants were sensitive to eyewitness accuracy when identification procedures were non-suggestive, with participants more likely to believe accurate eyewitnesses than inaccurate eyewitnesses. This sensitivity to identification accuracy was impaired when participants saw an identification made under suggestive circumstances. Judicial instructions did not significantly affect participants’ judgments with one exception: when they led to confusion. Participants who saw an identification obtained under suggestive circumstances were more willing to believe the eyewitness when they read the judicial instructions compared to those in the control condition.

Conclusions

Suggestive identification procedures impaired participants’ sensitivity to eyewitness accuracy. The Victorian judicial instructions did not improve participants’ sensitivity. This is the first test of judicial instructions that used Bayesian analyses to establish the absence of an effect. Thus, judicial instructions might not improve sensitivity to eyewitness accuracy or be an effective remedy for the damaging effects of suggestive identification procedures.

Keywords

Eyewitness evidence Judicial instructions Juror decision-making Jury instructions Video-recorded identification procedure 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was partially supported by the Swinburne University of Technology Postgraduate Research Award. The authors would like to thank Bonnie Kirkman, Jamie Smith-Morvell, Meg Blackie, Molly McQueen, Olivia Bradfield, Roy Groncki, and Travis Edmonds for their thorough reviews and comments on the early version of this manuscript.

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological Sciences; School of Health Sciences; Faculty of Health, Arts and DesignSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia

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