“Actually, Eye Didn’t See a Thing!”: How Jury Instructions in New Jersey May Affect the Jury’s Ability to Effectively Weigh Eyewitness Identification
One of the most essential pieces in identifying whether a crime has taken place is if someone witnessed that crime take place. It has long been held that eyewitness identification is an integral part of the process of prosecuting an accused, and it is often given great deference when considering whether the defendant is guilty. Over the past three decades, however, the research behind the malleability of memory has become more prevalent in the scientific community, and many researchers have made efforts to inform courts of the inaccuracies of eyewitness identifications, thus prompting the Supreme Court to create a test that establishes when to admit eyewitness identification. See Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, 114–15 (1977). While the state of New Jersey has adopted that test as a guideline as to when to admit eyewitness identifications, it did not prevent researchers from “cast[ing] doubt on some commonly held views relating to memory” and “call[ing] into question the vitality of the current legal framework for analyzing the reliability of eyewitness identifications.” State v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208, 217 (2011); see also State v. Madison, 109 N.J. 223, 235–37 (1988).