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  • Why eye witness accounts are useless.

    I'm catching up on news stories from Cumbria, because last night I was a bit busy with my own incident, and being an eye witness.

    All this combined makes me realise why eyewitness's are possibly about as much use as a chocolate fire guard.

    First off, my little event. Some kids were trashing some property, nothing more, and I was on the phone to the police sharpish. In my job I do have some experience in memorising info. But when the Police controller asked for a description, my mind was blank. I had to re-play the CCTV to get an accurate response.

    Now we move onto Cumbria. Which has slightly more adrenalin running through it. One eye witness describes the bloke rushing about with a Sniper rifle. By the gentleman's description it sounds like Mr bird was carrying something the size of a Barret M-82. Another chap describes a huge single barrelled Shot gun with a Scope on it.

    In fact this was a .22 Rimfire rifle. So I'm sitting here mulling over all that, and it strikes me how useless eyewitness's must be for police. I suppose they can get you a feel for an incident, and an order of events (but I think that might be slightly suspect too). But over all for details it seems Humans are bad at remembering things under pressure.
    Winnie says
    ---------------------------------
    "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

    It was an Accident."
    Herr Flick.

  • #2
    While people might not be great at remember specific details under pressure, that doesn't make eye witnesses useless.

    A problem with your Cumbria weapon situation could simply be attributed to people's general lack of knowledge about firearms. Most people only see firearms in movies and don't realize how large they are in real life. I remember the first time I fired a .22. I couldn't believe my friends called it a "pea-shooter". Personally, I'm impressed if people actually know what a scope is.

    You might be too much of an expert. If I witnessed a car crash, and the police asked me what makes and models of vehicles were involved, I doubt how well I could identify them simply because I'm not really a car guy. On the other hand, some of my friends can rattle off make, model and year just by looking at tail-lights.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Listy View Post
      I'm catching up on news stories from Cumbria, because last night I was a bit busy with my own incident, and being an eye witness.

      All this combined makes me realise why eyewitness's are possibly about as much use as a chocolate fire guard.

      First off, my little event. Some kids were trashing some property, nothing more, and I was on the phone to the police sharpish. In my job I do have some experience in memorising info. But when the Police controller asked for a description, my mind was blank. I had to re-play the CCTV to get an accurate response.

      Now we move onto Cumbria. Which has slightly more adrenalin running through it. One eye witness describes the bloke rushing about with a Sniper rifle. By the gentleman's description it sounds like Mr bird was carrying something the size of a Barret M-82. Another chap describes a huge single barrelled Shot gun with a Scope on it.

      In fact this was a .22 Rimfire rifle. So I'm sitting here mulling over all that, and it strikes me how useless eyewitness's must be for police. I suppose they can get you a feel for an incident, and an order of events (but I think that might be slightly suspect too). But over all for details it seems Humans are bad at remembering things under pressure.
      Try using eyewitness accounts for history evidence. Difficult! Julius Gaius Caesar's Gallic War's is a diary about his campaigning in Gaul and it is immensely bias. He inflates the size of the enemies armies so grossly it makes the reader want to puke. This of course exaggerated the importance and struggle of the battles he fought there. All for propaganda reasons I'm sure. But his campaigning all over was important nonetheless. But these writings are hysterical.

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      • #4
        I think proper vetting of the eyewitness source to determine their credibility is a must. Some eyewitnesses are more reliable than others based on any number of factors - stress, proximity, experience, eyesight, lighting, etc. Additionally, some eyewitnesses (or even the interviewer) may have an agenda and that has to be properly vetted. Timing of the interview or the recall is also important - memory changes over time and small details of the event will "morph" the further away from the event that you get. On the other hand, recall immediately after a traumatic event may also be skewed.

        There are no hard and fast rules, but some knowledge about memory and interviewing are probably critical to giving a witness the most even playing field for accurate recall.
        TTFN

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        • #5
          Eyewitness statements without corroboration are at best not worth the paper they're written on and at worst can lead to false convictions.

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8617945.stm

          "One person thought they hadn't seen the crime being committed, they were adamant about it," says Dr Graham Pike, a memory expert involved in the project. "When we reviewed the eye tracker we found they'd actually spent almost the entire time looking at it unfold. It was quite amazing."

          ...

          Take the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot at Stockwell Tube station in 2005 by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber. Eyewitnesses said he had vaulted a ticket barrier when running away from the police. In fact it was later shown by CCTV that Mr Menezes had walked through the barriers, having picked up a free newspaper, and only ran when he saw his train arriving.

          ...

          In the 1970s, the overturning of several eyewitnesses cases resulted in the Devlin Committee's investigation of identification evidence. It found many witnesses overstated their ability to single out the right person.

          What this latest research has proved is the extent of how fallible the memory can be, which is "massively important", say those involved.

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          • #6
            Think eyewitnesses are as usefull as the quality of the questions being asked to them ..
            In other words , a good interviewer well trained in techniques to ask the right questions will expose a much more usefull report in details as simply noting all that the witness was able to tell by himself alone .
            ' Because it has Electrolytes ! '

            regards:
            Henk

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            • #7
              Eyewitness statements without corroboration are at best not worth the paper they're written on and at worst can lead to false convictions.
              An eyewitness account that goes head to head with an defense lawyer is useless too.
              The Defense lawyer is well trained and can put words in to the eyewitness accounts mouth,lets face it,most eyewitnesses are just normal joe blows tha ere not trained for court.

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              • #8
                Most people are not very observant either.

                You see them all of the time, wandering down the street in iPod land, lost in their own dimension. How many times have you heard a driver involved in a recent accident say, "I didn't even see him!" Situational awareness is a skill that few people practice it seems.

                People also tend to remember events in the order that they first observed them, not the order in which they actually occurred. That one reason you never get a strait answer to the routine question, "who started it?"

                Cultural factors also play a part. In the 16th century people reported seeing angels, demons, dragons, and sea monsters. Now it is UFOs and Elvis.
                Last edited by GCoyote; 04 Jun 10, 08:59.
                Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by GCoyote View Post
                  You see them all of the time, wandering down the street in iPod land, lost in their own dimension. How many times have you heard a driver involved in a recent accident say, "I didn't even see him!" Situational awareness is a skill that few people practice it seems.
                  Second that! I am observant, as my job relies on picking up all those small details that normally give you the first clue of something happening. But the amount of my mates who just bimble through life with no clue of their surroundings is amazing.
                  I'll quite often remark "oh that's interesting" as I spot something glaringly huge. Their response is "what is?"
                  Winnie says
                  ---------------------------------
                  "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

                  It was an Accident."
                  Herr Flick.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Heidi View Post
                    An eyewitness account that goes head to head with an defense lawyer is useless too.
                    The Defense lawyer is well trained and can put words in to the eyewitness accounts mouth,lets face it,most eyewitnesses are just normal joe blows tha ere not trained for court.
                    Good witness preparation can be critical in overcoming opposing counsel's cross examination.

                    Overly aggressive cross examination may be a double edged sword and that a mean and nasty attorney can alienate the jury and create sympathy for the witness. It all comes down to who is more believable.
                    TTFN

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                    • #11
                      I didn't know you could get shot guns with scopes and even if you did I presume it would be usless
                      http://g.bf3stats.com/pc/1LP76r6C/melba_101.png

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 150935 View Post
                        I didn't know you could get shot guns with scopes and even if you did I presume it would be usless
                        Ah.......what about one of them lazer sights with a gigantic red dot the size of an umbrella?
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                          Ah.......what about one of them lazer sights with a gigantic red dot the size of an umbrella?
                          Mmmm depends what distence you are shooting at 10 to 20 metres away shore any more you will have the worlds largest laser lol
                          http://g.bf3stats.com/pc/1LP76r6C/melba_101.png

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 150935 View Post
                            I didn't know you could get shot guns with scopes and even if you did I presume it would be usless
                            These are normally used for competitive target shooting and they are not useless since the shot guns used in this tend to have very tight patterns.

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