Eyewitnesses play a critical role in our criminal justice system. They are often essential to identifying, charging, and ultimately convicting perpetrators of crime and in some cases may provide the sole piece of evidence against those individuals. For these reasons, the value of accurate and reliable eyewitness evidence cannot be overstated. Cases in which DNA testing has exonerated individuals convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony tend to make headlines, but in actuality, the frequency of mistaken eyewitness identifications is quite small. The vast majority of eyewitness identifications are accurate and provide trustworthy evidence for the trier of fact. Recognizing the weight accorded eyewitness evidence by judges and juries, the National Institute of Justice initiated a project in 1998 to research methods to improve the accuracy, reliability, and availability of information obtained from eyewitnesses.
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