New Jersey Supreme Court modernizes rules regarding eyewitness testimony
Trenton, NJ: On July 19th, nearly a year after a landmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision revised the state's legal framework regarding eyewitnesses, the state's highest court issued new rules for judges and juries on how eyewitness testimony should be considered in criminal cases.
The new rules, effective September 4, 2012, take into account recent scientific research regarding human memory. They instruct state judges to inform juries of how stress levels, distance, presence of a weapon, poor lighting, intoxication, and disguise, as well as time elapsed and even racial differences can affect the ability of eyewitnesses to make accurate testimony. The instruction state, "Human memory is not foolproof. Research has revealed that human memory is not like a video recording that a witness need only replay to remember what happened. Memory is far more complex."
The new rules are the result of a unanimous state supreme court decision in the case of State v. Larry R. Henderson in August of 2011. The previous state rules regarding eyewitnesses were based on the 1977 U. S. Supreme Court opinion in Manson v. Brathwaite, which now lack three and a half decades of current research into memory. Legal experts anticipate the New Jersey rules will become a model for other states looking to revise court procedures in the near future.
Part of the new rules can be found here.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 New Jersey Courts, "Supreme Court Releases Eyewitness Identification Criteria for Criminal Cases," July 19, 2012
- ↑ New Jersey Courts, "Identification: In-court Identification Only"
- ↑ New York Times, "New Jersey Court Issues Guidance for Juries About Reliability of Eyewitnesses," July 19, 2012