The trial itself is Medieval garbage from the disputation method of Scholasticism, as a method of arriving at some answer to an important question. There are no validation nor even reliability data available to this essential legal methodology.
New Jersey is a leader in addressing problems with eyewitness testimony
By Emilie Lounsberry
Inquirer Staff Writer
McKinley Cromedy spent five years behind bars in New Jersey after a rape victim testified she was certain he was the one who attacked her.
Cromedy's lawyer questioned the ability of the woman, who is white, to differentiate among black men like the defendant, but the jury convicted Cromedy on the strength of the victim's memory.
DNA eventually showed he didn't do it, and the New Jersey Supreme Court responded with a bold move: It ordered trial judges across the state to instruct juries about the difficulties of cross-racial identification.
More than a decade later, New Jersey remains a leader nationally in efforts to deal with the problem of misidentification. A report filed last week with the state high court said that even more steps were needed to take advantage of the wealth of scientific studies casting light on the issue.
"New Jersey is a vanguard state," said Duquesne University law professor John T. Rago, among those working on the issue in Pennsylvania as part of an examination of the underlying causes of wrongful convictions.
Rago and others said Pennsylvania has a way to go to catch up with its neighboring state on the possible pitfalls of eyewitness testimony, which is among the most powerful evidence in criminal cases.
"There hasn't been much in the way of reform in Pennsylvania at all," said Gary Wells, a psychology professor at Iowa State University who was one of seven experts to testify before the special master who filed the New Jersey report on the issue.
A final report to the Pennsylvania Senate, due in late summer, is expected to explore eyewitness identification.
"It's not an easy issue," said Rago, who said the 51 committee members were examining scientific advancements focusing on a number of avenues of criminal investigation.
The problem with eyewitness identification has come to light because of DNA testing, the great equalizer in the criminal justice system because it helps to convict the guilty and clear the innocent.
About three-quarters of the 254 defendants exonerated nationally by DNA testing, including Cromedy, had been convicted largely on the basis of eyewitness testimony.
"It was him," the young rape victim testified in 1994, telling a jury that Cromedy had attacked her in her basement apartment near the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick.