Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Jennifer Dysart

Second Reader

Charles Stone

Third Advisor

Steven Penrod

Abstract

The Innocence Project’s DNA exoneration database (2018) indicates that approximately 27% of wrongful conviction cases containing eyewitness evidence also included a composite or sketch[1] of the perpetrator. This statistic is alarming, given that composites are rarely used in criminal investigations (PERF, 2013), but not surprising considering “good” composites are notoriously difficult to construct (e.g., Wells, Charman, & Olson, 2005). It is well understood that eyewitness evidence can be particularly persuasive evidence of guilt for juries and thus we were interested in learning more about how defense attorneys prepare for trial with respect to this specific type of eyewitness evidence. The overall purpose of this study was to assess the level of knowledge, education, training, and litigation experience defense attorneys have regarding composites through a survey methodology. We hypothesized that participants would have some knowledge about general eyewitness identification issues but would mostly be poorly trained and educated on composites. We also hypothesized that defense attorneys would report having been relatively unsuccessful in their attempts to suppress composite evidence at trial. The results supported our hypotheses. We anticipate that the results may benefit defense attorneys in future motions to suppress, both at trial and post-conviction hearings, and assist them in protecting their clients from wrongful conviction.



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