Eyewitness Testimony Case Study Essay

The Globe and Mail reports on a case that occurred on Feb. 11, 2015 in which a 15-year-old boy, whose name is banned from publication because he is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death in a judge-only trial after he pushed a fellow schoolmate, 18year-old Christopher Chafe down a snowy embankment, the victim ended up under the wheels of a moving bus. This incident killed the teen instantly in front of horrified on-looking classmates. Chafe was pronounced dead at the scene. The trial relied on eye witness testimony from the bus driver and child witnesses.

The court heard from witnesses (classmates) that the boy had pushed Chafe once before the final and fatal shove sent him sliding down the bank onto the snowy, slush-covered street below, near the rear, before wheels of the bus rolled over Chafe’s head and crushed it. (Globe and Mail, 2015) Most of the testimonies came from students standing nearby. Witnesses testified that Chafe had joked with the accused over what would happen if he was pushed in front of the bus. (CTV, 2015) One witness told the court that he heard the accused say he would do it, and then asked Chafe if he was ready to be pushed. CBC, 2015) Another witness, one of Chafe’s friends, told the court that some students were standing outside the school at around 2 p. m. when the accused pushed Chafe in the upper chest with both hands and that he witnessed Chafe fall over the snowbank. (CTV, 2015)

The defence lawyer James Snow, then asked the teen if he remembered later telling police that Chafe jokingly asked, “What happens if you guys push me in front of the bus? ” however, the teen told the court he could not remember what he had told the officials. (Globe and Mail, 2015) There was also onflicting testimony on how fast the bus was going among those that testified. (CTV, 2015) Snow said Chafe’s gruesome death was the result of “momentary inadvertence,” not reckless behaviour. (globe and mail, 2015) He also told the court that there was raucous “goofing around” but that there was no evidence of fighting or aggression. (CBC, 2015) The provincial court Judge Peter Ross dismissed the defence’s assertion. (The Globe and Mail, 2015) Outside of court proceedings Crown prosecutor Steve Melnick and Defence attorney James Snow gave comments about the case.

Melnick said that the case was both unusual and difficult to try because of the accused’s age, conflicting testimony and the lack of similar case law. (the Globe and Mail, 2015) “What you’re dealing with is a number of young kids witness a very traumatic event,” he said. “They had to deal with their own shock issues themselves, so it was a very trying case that way. ” (the Globe and Mail, 2015) Snow also added that “It was a tough case to try — there were many young witnesses and that always makes it tough,” (The Globe and Mail, 2015) The 15 yr. ld accused is awaiting his sentence Dec 7. (The Globe and Mail, 2015)

Children, like adults, witness and fall victim to crime. This case is not unlike many cases that have involved child witness testimony. Children provide eyewitness reports about a wide variety of crimes and their statements also serve as important information in police investigations. If the case goes to trial, they may be called to testify. The events that occurred in the news article raise questions such as ‘When is child testimony necessary? ‘Is it a reliable way of obtaining accuracy of events? ‘ and ‘At what age is considered an acceptable age to give accounts of that event? ‘ Contemporary research in the field of psychology and law generally suggest that children are more reliable witnesses than once considered in previous studies, but not without limitations.

The article Psychological Research on Children as Witnesses: Practical Implications for Forensic Interviews and Courtroom Testimony give accounts of these limitations such as affect on memory recall, suggestibility and he effects that stress from being bystanders of a crime pose. Legal professionals often have apprehensions about young witnesses and often wonder how well children can provide accurate eyewitness testimony. They take into consideration how simple or difficult it is to mislead those who give eye witness testimony but also research ways that enable the optimization of children’s accuracy when recounting details about an event and make preparations to prepare a child for court. Psychological research exists on how well children can retain and remember events.

Memory fades over time and their memory like adults’, are not infallible. There is some research that the memories of children fade more quickly for some events than do memories of adult but further research indicate that children have good memory ability. Memory is also affected by stressful events. Factors affecting accuracy including stressful events make a person unfocused as core features of highly stressful events are often retained in memory with particular durability. Peripheral details may or may not be wellremembered.

The article Age Differences in Eyewitness Testimony children can provide information that is accurate and meaningful to an investigator. Generally, studies suggest that by the ages of eight to nine years of age children generate and use a variety of retrieval strategies spontaneously. Although there are developmental differences between children and adults in terms of memory, Older children and adults use more complex memory retrieval strategies than younger children to increase the amount of information they recall.

There is no minimum age below which a child cannot testify, some states maintain laws requiring competence examinations of children who are under a certain age, e. g. , 10 years. These examinations, date back to English common law consist of an interview by the judge and/or attorneys in an attempt to determine the child’s intelligence, memory, ability to distinguish truth from lies, and understanding of the necessity to speak the truth. The decision as to the child’s competence falls under the judge’s discretion.

To the extent that a witnessed event falls within the realm of children’s understanding and experience, children may in many ways be comparable to adult witnesses. To the extent that the event is unfamiliar or uninterpretable, developmental differences are more likely to appear. Furthermore, a child’s performance on a memory test will be influenced by the type of test employed (e. g. , free recall, recognition). Age differences are likely to be exacerbated when retrieval demands are high, as in free recall.

Many factors (e. g. , exposure durations, delay intervals, type of event witnessed) vary across these studies, making comparisons problematic. In any case, the studies may not apply well to crimes about which children are most likely to provide eyewitness reports to police and to courts of law Critique One the issue of age judges, legislators, and lawyers who make and administer the law should acknowledge the complexity that comes with young witnesses.

Professionals trained in law can benefit from closer alliances with mental health professionals conducting research on memory, suggestibility, interviewing, the impact on children of testifying, and related forensic issues. Enhanced communication between mental health and legal professionals will increase fairness for defendants, will facilitate compassionate and age-appropriate treatment of young witnesses, and, in the final analysis, will further the ultimate goal of discovering the truth