Rethinking reliance on eyewitness confidence

When Jennifer Thompson picked Ronald Cotton—suspect number five—from a line-up, she was “absolutely certain” she had identified the man who raped her in July 1984. She said she knew that she was right because, during the rape, she had studied his eyes, his voice, his height, and even the shape of his ears. She was determined to identify him later if she survived. Thompson’s repeated strong and confident identification of Cotton during pretrial proceedings and at trial led to his 1985 conviction and sentence of life imprisonment plus 50 years. In 1995, DNA evidence proved Thompson’s identification to be wrong. (American Judicature Society)