This paper will explore how breakthroughs in neuroscience, specifically neuroimaging, can be used to validate eyewitness testimony. Though the use of direct evidence is decreasing, due to findings of numerous wrongful convictions that were based on eyewitness testimonies, it is still an element of many criminal trials today. Cross-examination is used to validate eyewitness testimony because memories are fallible. Cross-examination can successfully determine if a witness is telling the truth, but it cannot determine if a memory is true. This has resulted in juries convicting individuals based on questionable eyewitness testimony. Neuroscientists have found that neuroimaging methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, can be used to distinguish between true and false memories and can determine if a witness is telling the truth. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys alike stand to benefit from using neuroimaging to validate eyewitness testimony that is brought into trial. Though the jury can use neuroimaging evidence to more accurately assess eyewitness testimony, as with all scientific data, the jury should be properly instructed when neuroimages are used, in order to reduce the prejudicial value of the evidence.
"Neuroimaging and Eyewitness Testimony,"
Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science: Vol. 2
, Article 7.
Available at: http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/themis/vol2/iss1/7