Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Eyewitness Memory is Unreliable
Australian eyewitness expert Donald Thomson appeared on a live TV discussion about the unreliability of eyewitness memory. He was later arrested, placed in a lineup and identified by a victim as the man who had raped her. The police charged Thomson although the rape had occurred at the time he was on TV. They dismissed his alibi that he was in plain view of a TV audience and in the company of the other discussants, including an assistant commissioner of police. The policeman taking his statement sneered, "Yes, I suppose you've got Jesus Christ, and the Queen of England, too." Eventually, the investigators discovered that the rapist had attacked the woman as she was watching TV - the very program on which Thompson had appeared. Authorities eventually cleared Thomson. The woman had confused her rapist's face with the face the she had seen on TV. (quote taken from Baddeley's Your Memory: A User's Guide).
It simply staggers my imagination that someone testifying about unreliable eyewitnesses would then get accused of something by an unreliable witness ... who herself had been watching him talk about unreliable witnesses and got confused!