Fallibility of Human Memory (01:06)
Scientists prove that human memory is fallible in an experiment with eyewitnesses to a staged murder. Humans inadvertently make up details when they cannot recall them.
False Identification (01:33)
Six weeks after a staged fight, witnesses view 10 photographs and try to identify the men from the fight. Two of the witnesses identify an innocent man as the murderer. No eyewitness identified the actual murderer.
Eyewitness Accounts: Fragile (01:18)
In 1974, a prisoner walks free with a royal pardon after spending 8 years of wrongful imprisonment. He was misidentified by 8 eyewitnesses as an armed robber and police assailant.
Police Artists (00:57)
If a person can remember a stranger's face, he or she might be unable to find language to describe the face. Historically, police brought in artists to help translate verbal description into a physical likeness.
Technology and Criminal Identification (00:50)
Technology in the 1960s brought in Identi-Kit® and PhotoKit comprised of albums of individual features that witnesses could piece together to form a face. Both of these techniques were very difficult for people to use.
Eyewitness Challenges (01:07)
Hair is the most salient feature for Caucasians. Changing the hair changes the way the face looks. If people cannot recognize their own faces, how can they identify the face of someone they saw only once?
Familiarity: Open-Faced Smile (01:14)
Volunteers consistently choose one woman's photograph as someone they recognize. They could not possibly know her, but her smiling, open face makes her look like she may be familiar with the volunteers.
Eye-Tracker Glasses (01:24)
Eye-tracker glasses track precisely where the wearer is looking. Half of a group of volunteers wears eye-tracker glasses during a magic show. What did they look at?
Fear and Memory (01:01)
An experiment is designed to test the role of fear in memory accuracy. Witnesses will get only one chance to spot the perpetrators.
Staged Kidnapping (00:57)
Wearing eye-tracker glasses, volunteers will witness a kidnapping. They have no way of knowing it is a set-up to test their memories.
Eyewitness Interviews (01:56)
Trained interviewers gather information from eyewitnesses to a kidnapping. The cognitive interview starts with uninterrupted free recall.
Police Arrests and Eyewitness Accounts (01:38)
As police interview eyewitnesses, they track all the corroborative points on a whiteboard. Meanwhile, police have two men in custody and need eyewitness accounts to help keep them there.
Eyewitness Forgets Key Points (01:28)
An eyewitness account of a crime includes details from the beginning and end of the crime. He leaves out crucial details about a struggle between a robber and a security guard.
Eyewitnesses: Weapon Focus (01:07)
An eyewitness account is sketchy because the eyewitness focused on the weapon instead of the crucial action in the crime. Police call this "weapon focus."
Anxiety and Memory (01:15)
Once a female eyewitness becomes fearful of the crime she witnesses, she eases to the back of the crowd. She is unable to recall details about the getaway car with accuracy.
Fear: Eradication of Memory (01:48)
Fear affects people in different ways. Fear can eradicate memory. Witnesses often mix up memories of features from one person and ascribe them to another.
Witnesses Make Up Details (01:06)
A witness reports that a car came from a particular direction, yet his eye-tracker glasses show that he did not see a car. Witnesses may try to make sense of a crime by describing what they think must have happened.
False Eyewitness Account (01:51)
A witness's eye-tracker glasses show that he spent nearly all the time watching the robbery, and almost no time watching the kidnapping. Yet, he describes the kidnapper in great detail.
Are Witnesses Liars? (00:40)
Eye-tracker glasses prove what police interviewers have said all along: what witnesses say they saw and what they actually did see are two different things.
Seeing Is Not Remembering (01:13)
A witness who is wearing eye-tracker glasses moves her eyes around the crime scene, paying almost equal attention to all areas involved. But, what will she remember?
Witness Changes Mind (01:46)
When questioned about her description of one of the robbers, a witness alters her description. First describing him as dark-skinned, she ends up saying "he was definitely a white guy."
License Plate Recall (01:38)
A witness who could not remember any faces is the only person to remember the license number of the getaway car.
False Witness (01:31)
The driver of the getaway car is dark-haired, yet one witness remembers a blond-haired man.
Memory Changes (01:03)
Having given her verbal account of the crime, a witness consults notes she made 30 minutes after the crime. Her verbal account contains many contradictions.
Video Identification Parade System (01:26)
VIPER is a video identification parade system presently being phased in across the U.K. It replaces the traditional line-up, which is considered by psychologists to be unfair and flawed.
Identification Match (01:21)
As the witness views faces in the VIPER system, he or she will only pick out a face that is recognizable. One eyewitness identifies one of the robbers from the VIPER system.
Levels of Witness Confidence (01:05)
Prior to looking at the VIPER faces for identification, a witness is sure he could identify one of the robbers. Yet, he does not pick out the robber's face from the system.
Face Recognition Difficulty (01:39)
Why is it so difficult to remember what a face looks like in detail? Recall and recognition are two different cognitive processes that involve memory.
Witness Contamination (01:19)
Scientists look at the differences between witnesses who were fearful at the crime scene and witnesses who watch he crime on a DVD. Witness contamination is a risk when witnesses discuss what they saw.
Degraded Eyewitness Accounts (01:25)
When it becomes clear to police that two or more witnesses have discussed among themselves what they saw, the eyewitness accounts are degraded and not useful in court.
Witness Account vs. Reality (02:24)
A team of interviewers cross reference the statements they collected. Based solely on witness accounts and positive identifications, police interviewers see a film of the actual crime.
Importance of Eyewitness Accounts (00:50)
Memories are by nature fragmentary. Yet, police rely on eyewitness accounts to carry out their work. Miscarriages of justice are impossible to eliminate, but they might be more preventable.
Introducing Faulty Memory (05:18)
Elizabeth Loftus explains that faulty memory is the main reason individuals are wrongly convicted. She cites Hillary Clinton's well-publicized 1996 trip to Bosnia as an example of how an intelligent person can remember something so inaccurately.
Rich False Memory Rubric (03:01)
Loftus explains how false memory is implanted when there has been no event. Plied with suggestion a rich false memory can be created.
Real Time Experiment (05:23)
Loftus demonstrates misinformation with the audience as subjects who attempt to remember faces. Post event activity that induces subjects to pick a wrong person affects their later ability to accurately identify a right person.
Field Studies at Survival School (05:23)
Loftus explains a study of soldiers who endured high stress survival training--the experience of being taken captive and interrogated--and the effects of misinformation on their ability to identify their interrogator.
Techniques for Planting False Memories (04:42)
Elizabeth Loftus describes how guided imagination, dream interpretation, or suggestion by a therapist can produce false memories, as can hypnosis, exposure to other people's memories, false information and doctored photographs.
Implausible or Impossible Memories (03:17)
Loftus describes two studies that convinced research subjects that they had experienced something that could not possibly have happened--meeting Bugs Bunny (a Warner Brothers character) at Disneyland.
Application of False Memory Research on Diet (06:08)
The New York Times published the "False Memory Diet," based on Loftus' research. She describes research in which subjects ate less of an unhealthy food after a false memory of that food making them sick was planted.
Q & A with Elizabeth Loftus: Patricia Bergus Case (03:01)
Loftus addresses the question: Are psychotherapists adapting their practice as a result of your research? She states that therapists were initially threatened by false memory research, but that a major lawsuit caused the therapy community to pay attention.
Q & A with Elizabeth Loftus: Removing a True Memory (01:04)
Loftus addresses the question: Is it possible to persuade someone that a real memory is, in fact, false? Professor Loftus explains that it is harder to remove a memory, than implant one. She says substitution weakens an original memory.
Jennifer Thompson Case (02:22)
Gathering evidence from an eyewitness is a process laden with potential for contamination. A woman who was raped in her own bedroom provides details of her attack.
Jennifer Thompson Case: Closed Case (02:06)
Rape victim Jennifer Thompson identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker in both a photo line up and a live lineup. The case went to court based on her strong eyewitness testimony and he was sentenced to life plus fifty years in prison.
Jennifer Thompson Case: Appeal (01:49)
Ronald Cotton appealed rape conviction convinced that it had been committed by Bobby Poole. He lost the appeal and was convicted of a second rape based on eyewitness testimony.
Jennifer Thompson Case: What Went Wrong? (02:04)
Since Ronald Cotton's release Jennifer Thompson has dedicated her life to highlighting the problems of inaccurate witness identification. She believes her memory contamination began as soon as she helped police create an Identi-Kit photo.
Jennifer Thompson Case: System Reform (01:27)
After being wrongly identified as attacker in one rape, Ronald Cotton was identified in a second rape because of unconscious transference. North Carolina has since changed its witness interview methods to prevent future wrongful convictions.
Eyewitness Memory (01:45)
To safeguard against memory contamination a specially trained officer asked opened ended questions while interviewing the victim of a crime. Together they used EFIT to create a likeness to the suspect.
Suspect Identification (01:46)
Using EFIT victim of a violent home robbery was able to create an amazing likeness to the man who attacked her. Live lineups are known to be flawed so the victim was shown computer images to identify that man that attacked her.
Securing a Safe Conviction (01:15)
With inconclusive DNA evidence eyewitness testimony is crucial. The cognitive interview process helped the victim of a violent crime accurately identify her attacker.
Recap: Victim as Eyewitness (03:28)
In order to better understand how memory works ordinary people are made key witnesses to staged crimes. The participants share their feelings about the experiment.
DNA: Sample Extraction (03:51)
DNA profiling takes many forms. During the extraction process, Chelex isolates DNA. It is important to test DNA before it degrades.
DNA: Quantification (02:49)
Once DNA is removed into solution, the amount of DNA is determined. DNA is removed from the supernatant. A photographic plate reveals the DNA, which is then compared to known concentrations.
DNA: Amplification (03:06)
The PCR process creates copies of the extracted DNA. Forensics testing often combines a number of tests at once. Target DNA is added to a multi-mix of reactants. The DNA double helix is split.
Target DNA Identification (04:23)
In an electrophoresis machine, DNA moves through an acrylomide gel and then separates. Scientists determine the size of DNA fragments. Finally, a numerical sequence identifies the target DNA.
Crime Scene: Evidence Collection (03:04)
Police mark off the crime scene to prevent contamination of evidence. The forensics team takes picture, makes measurements, and documents any evidence. A field scientists takes digital photographs of everything that is relevant.
Examination of Evidence: DNA (02:56)
Evidence from the crime scene arrives at the crime lab for examination. The team tests samples for DNA from hair follicles and blood samples. Toxicologists study analytical chemistry, toxicology, and pharmacology.
Forensics: Examination of the Victim (03:26)
The pathologist has studied toxicology, microbiology, and serology. He determines the time of death. He performs external and internal examinations, and examines wounds to determine the type of weapon.
Evidence in the Courtroom (02:46)
Forensics scientists must be prepared to present their evidence in a court of law. They must learn to present scientific evidence in simple ways. It could take months or years to solve a crime.
Forensic Science (01:57)
Since 1994, nearly 50 people have been taken off death row because of errors and new evidence. Bad science is responsible for 25% of the reversals.
Fatal Data Analysis (01:58)
A sketch of a serial rapist points to John Willis. A pathologist reports that a found a semen/blood type test was "inconclusive." He was sentenced to 100 years. Investigators knew the lab specialist deliberately skewed her testimony. An innocent man is executed.
Lab Report Discrepancies (03:59)
An assistant DA opens the Willis rape case and examines evidence. At the time, DNA was not used. Semen was matched to blood type. He looks at the original lab data and sees a discrepancy that should have freed Willis.
Deceptive Testimony (02:10)
The pathologist's report at Willis's trial was deceptive. More recent DNA analyses proved that John Willis could not have been the rapist. The man who did commit the rapes had been questioned and let go by police.
Incompetence or Personal Agenda? (02:27)
Four teenage boys are arrested for the rape and murder of a medical student. The same pathologist who worked the Willis case worked this case. Once again, evidence that would have exonerated the teens was covered up by the DNA analyst.
Conclusions vs. Facts (02:02)
An attorney investigates the scientific reports that a pathologist testified were "inconclusive." She finds data in the reports that clearly would have eliminated the teens as suspects. Five wrongly convicted men sue the city of Chicago.
Integrity of Pathologists (02:48)
Barry Scheck, founder of the Innocence Project, says that some forensics scientists in Chicago "play fast and loose with the truth."
Before DNA (02:04)
When a woman is found dead in her Wichita Falls home, an African American man named Odell Barnes is arrested. Before DNA, semen samples were matched for blood type. The young man is convicted and sent to death row.
Review of a Case Gone Wrong (02:55)
An attorney investigates the Odell Barnes case. Review of trial records and lab tests shows that Barnes was not the killer. Yet, two small drops of blood on his coveralls were said to be a match the victim's blood.
Suspicious Blood Stains (02:46)
An expert DNA analyst tests blood stains on Odell Barnes' clothing. This time, it is clear that the blood drops on the coveralls came from processed blood samples and not directly from the victim's body.
Execution of an Innocent Man (02:26)
Five weeks before Barnes' execution, his lawyers filed a 400-page brief with the appellate court. The governor at the time was George W. Bush. He refused to read or consider the evidence and did nothing to stop the execution.
DNA Mystery (07:47)
A convicted rapist creates an ingenious series of events around his DNA that he hopes will free him from prison. His plan backfires when an astute investigator starts asking questions.
Conflict of Interest (01:37)
Across America, over 5,000 scientists diligently process evidence. Because many of them work for the police or prosecutor's office, they try to keep their bosses happy. It is a controversial issue that has heavy consequences for innocent people.
Forensic Scandal (01:24)
One of the biggest forensics scandals in US history took place in Oklahoma. Joyce Gilchrist, a forensic analyst provided slanted or fraudulent evidence in court in thousands of cases over her 20-year career.
Use of Independent Labs (01:36)
A new system called the DNA Forensic Testing Program ensures that DNA evidence will not be corrupted by close ties with the police and prosecutor's office. DNA testing is done in independent labs. This is a first step toward privatization of DNA testing.
Improvement of Lab Reports (02:38)
Lab reports are in great need of systemization and improvement. Clear, scientifically rigorous reports would have prevented data from being misrepresented in court cases that convicted and sometimes executed innocent people.