Gatekeeping or Gaslighting? How Courts Mislead Juries by Excluding Expert Testimony on the Accuracy of Eyewitness Identifications

Historically, eyewitness identifications have been considered the gold standard of trial evidence. There’s little that’s more convincing than a witness on the stand confidently pointing at a defendant and proclaiming, under oath, “that’s the one!” However, over the last half century it has become clear that eyewitness identification may actually be one of the most fallible evidentiary tools, despite common misconceptions of its accuracy. Even in the face of growing research demonstrating the unreliability of eyewitness identification, courts have been slow to allow experts to testify to that unreliability in the courtroom. Judges instead bar them as unqualified or unhelpful under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. In this Contribution, Zoe Farkas (’23) argues that these experts are not only qualified and helpful, but absolutely essential to help juries fulfill their fact-finder duties.

Rejecting the Split Personality Prosecutor

Can the exculpatory testimony of a witness before a grand jury be entered against the government under the “Former Testimony” exception to the ban on hearsay? Rahul Hari (’16) examines this question, presented at the 2015 National Moot Court Competition. For exculpatory testimony provided by a witness before the grand jury to be admissible at a subsequent trial in which the same witness is no longer available to testify, the proponent of that evidence must show that the prosecutor had a similar motive in developing that witness’s testimony at the grand jury stage as she would have had if the witness were now available to testify at trial. This Contribution argues that the broad interpretation of “similar motive,” as employed by a majority of the Circuit Courts of Appeals, adheres to the text of the Federal Rules of Evidence, more accurately captures the multiple motives a prosecutor might have in questioning a witness, and protects against prosecutorial abuse.