Eyewitness Evidence in the Courts CLE

Tuesday, August 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Duke Law School, Room 3043

Eyewitness testimony can be incredibly powerful in court. “There is almost nothing more convincing,” Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a 1981 dissent, “than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says, ‘That’s the one!’” However, we now know that eyewitness memory is fragile and malleable. This panel, with leading scientists, lawyers, and judges, moderated by Professor Brandon Garrett, will first explore how eyewitness misidentifications can cause wrongful convictions. Second, the panelists will discuss scientific research on ways in which reliability of eyewitness identification might be improved. Third, the panelists will discuss how to address these questions in the courtroom, including through jury instructions.

Panelists will include:

  • Judge Theodore McKee, U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and chair of a task force on jury instructions on eyewitness identification evidence.
  • Karen Newirth, Senior staff attorney of the Innocence Project, litigates eyewitness memory issues nationwide.
  • Tom Albright, Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Co-chaired National Academy of Sciences report on eyewitness memory and law
  • Benjamin David, District Attorney, Fifth District (New Hanover and Pender Counties), North Carolina, and past president of the NC Conference of District Attorneys.
  • Jennifer Thompson, founder of Healing Justice, co-author, Picking Cotton, and national advocate for eyewitness identification reform

The event is sponsored by the Duke Law Center for Criminal Justice & Professional Responsibility and Wrongful Convictions Clinic. Lunch will be provided.

The event has been approved for 1.00 hours of CLE credit by the North Carolina Board of Continuing Legal Education. There is no need to register. Please contact Sarah Holsapple (sarah.holsapple@law.duke.edu) with any questions.

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