The article first summarizes the possible sources of error found in eyewitness testimony according to psychological and cognitive science research. The paper then explores the admissibility of this expert testimony under the existing rules of evidence according to both federal law and Alabama state law, as well as court commentary on its admissibility, and concludes the liberal admission of such testimony is not warranted in the case of Alabama. Taking into consideration the policies which constitute the state's provision of legal services to indigent defendants, five arguments counsel against the admission of expert testimony, including: the trial court's discretion in admitting such evidence; the evidence's limited utility; the evidence can be more prejudicial than probative in a jury trial setting; there is considerable disagreement within the scientific community about the accuracy and value of such evidence; and efficacious safeguards already exist or more effective safeguards should take priority over the admission of such evidence. The paper concludes that Alabama's criminal justice system and Alabama defendants would be better served by implementing a presumption against the admissibility of expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitness evidence. This presumption coupled with a bright line test for when the evidence should be admitted in certain cases would allow the state to concentrate on improving its provision of legal entitlements to all indigent defendants.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Preussel, Robin, "The Experts Aren't Reliable Either: Why Expert Testimony on the Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony is Unwarranted in Alabama State Courts" (2006). Student Scholarship Papers. Paper 28.