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

Alena Skalon, Jennifer L. Beaudry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-594
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

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

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