Court rejects adding new rules on use of eyewitness testimony

  • January 11, 2012 - 8:45 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to put new legal limits on the use of questionable eyewitness testimony at trials, ruling Wednesday that juries must weigh the evidence and decide what is true.

The 8-1 decision came as a disappointment to some criminal law experts who say false identifications by eyewitnesses are a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the problem, but disagreed that the right solution was to have trial judges weigh the reliability of all eyewitness testimony prior to the trial. That would be major change in U.S. criminal law -- and not a good one, she said. It would mean everyday trials would be delayed indefinitely while lawyers and the judge fought over whether a witness was reliable, capable and unbiased.

The decision affirms the conviction of a repeat criminal in New Hampshire, Barion Perry, who was arrested in an apartment parking lot late at night. A woman on the third floor had spotted a "tall black man" looking into cars, and from a balcony, she pointed to him when an officer arrived. She could not identify his face, however, when shown photos later.


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