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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Making sense of a court's two cents

By David DeMatteo, JD, PhD, Jaymes Fairfax-Columbo, BA, and Daniel A. Krauss, JD, PhD
The Monitor on Psychology
December 2014, Vol 45, No. 11
Print version: page 24

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided two cases that address whether parties can use expert witnesses to help juries assess lay witness testimony. In one case, Commonwealth v. Walker (2014), the court lifted a ban on the admissibility of expert testimony regarding eyewitness identification. In the other case, Commonwealth v. Alicia (2014), the court held that expert testimony regarding false confessions was inadmissible.

Although the two outcomes diverged, robust research suggests that eyewitness identification and false confessions pose significant problems for the legal system (Wells et al., 1998; Kassin et al., 2010). So, how did the court justify its differing opinions? And what lessons can be learned from these discrepant decisions concerning how social science can influence legal decisions?

The entire article is here.