Fair Prosecutions
The effect of defective investigative police work may lead to a corruption of our justice system. The multiple safeguards ensuring that an accused get a fair trial are many times minimized by the practical aspects of police work. It is important to educate police officers on the role that their findings play in the prosecutorial system. The current techniques employed by most police departments when dealing with eyewitness testimony have been found to result in wrongful convictions. It is important to develop a system where investigative techniques involved with eyewitness testimony allow the prosecutor to make a case based on reliable evidence. In addition, the elimination of the political pressures placed on district attorneys coupled with restrained discretion may help eliminate the danger of wrongful convictions. Therefore, in order to reform our current prosecutorial system it is necessary that we start at the bottom.
It is important to recognize the potential factors that may affect the accuracy of a police investigation when relying on eyewitness testimony. The first step is to ensure that investigators understand how the emotional state of a victim may affect their recollection and perception of a crime which in turn may distort the description of the perpetrator. For example, weapon exposure and stress have been shown to reduce the accuracy of face recognition (Flowe, Mehta, & Ebessen, 2011). So if an investigator is confronted with a victim who was the victim of a violent crime involving a weapon it is important to account for such factor when searching for the perpetrator. The "melting pot" nature of our country makes it important for our investigators to factor in the stereotypes and personal biases that may affect the accuracy of a victim\'s description. Especially important in cases involving victims and perpetrators of different races is to account for the "cross race effect" which leads people to more accurately recognize faces of their own race while making it more difficult to recognize faces of other races. Research has shown that such effect is more prominent on Caucasians against other races (Jackiw, Arbuthnott, Pfeifer, Marcon, & Meissner, 2008). Such covert discrimination is not necessarily intentional as researchers have found that the lack of social interaction between different races may be the cause of the "cross race effect" (Hugenberg, Young, Bernstein, & Sacco, 2010). It is important to explain to our law enforcement officers how such factors may lead to a distorted man hunt.
In addition to accounting for the potential emotional and personal factors influencing a victim\'s description investigators should employ safeguards to prevent misidentifications. Ample research has shown that the deficient procedures employed by police departments when conducting line-ups and interviews affect the accuracy of testimony. When eyewitnesses are scarce police officers attempt to get the most details possible from the available witnesses. However, it has been shown that the more detail that a person provides the less accurate the testimony tends to be and conversely, the more accurate the testimony is the less detail that is given (Weber & Brewer, 2008). In addition to the sacrifice of accuracy for detail there is a body of evidence that suggest that the exposure to misleading questions may make witnesses extract and incorporate new information after the event and then testify about it as though they had really witnessed it (Wells et al., 2000). Furthermore, research shows that giving feedback confirming eyewitness choices from a line-up is a common practice in many police departments that leads to an increase in confidence which in turn translates to believability to the jury, prosecutor and judge (Semmler, Brewer, & Wells, 2004). So the manner in which a line-up is conducted may influence and/or create a misidentification by a victim. Research has shown that when a line-up is given by presenting all suspects at once, as is commonplace in most precincts, it may lead a person to pick one suspect in relation to the others rather than relative the description they provided (Yarmey, 2003). By simply presenting the suspects one by one and not providing positive feedback to the victim/witness these effects can be mitigated.
A second step to ensure a fair prosecution is to eliminate the political pressures and unrestrained discretion from the district attorney\'s office.
Prosecutors have a duty to bring charges against an accused only if there is enough evidence to support such charges. Prosecutors have to rely on evidence that seems to be