In the more than three decades since the United States Supreme Court announced a test for the admission of eyewitness identification evidence, a vast body of scientific research about human memory has emerged. That work cast doubt on the vitality of the established framework for analyzing and admitting eyewitness identifications.
In August 2011, after examining hundreds of scientific studies and testimony by numerous experts, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that the prevailing legal standard did not provide a sufficient measure for reliability, did not deter misconduct, and overstated the jury’s innate ability to evaluate eyewitness testimony. In response, the Court announced certain changes to the legal framework in State v. Henderson.
In the 18th Annual William J. Brennan Jr. Lecture on February 22, Chief Justice Rabner examined how the Court reached that point, the revised legal test that now applies under New Jersey law, the need for enhanced jury charges relating to eyewitness identification, and the reasons underlying the new standard.