Friday, September 04, 2009

New Case Favoring Expert Testimony about Eyewitness Identification

See the as-yet unpublished opinion in Benn v. U.S. --- A.2d ----, 2009 WL 2778266 (D.C., Sept 3, 2009). The first paragraph of the opinion states:
Raymond Benn appeals his convictions, after a second jury trial, for the armed kidnapping of Charles "Sean" Williams on December 1, 1992. This appeal raises an issue we have grappled with before, the admission of expert testimony on the potential unreliability of eyewitnesses. For the first time, however, we do not affirm the trial court's exclusion of the proffered expert testimony. In excluding the expert testimony proffered by appellant, the trial court applied incorrect legal principles. It came dangerously close to employing a per se rule of exclusion and made a determination that contravened a holding of this court following the first trial. Moreover, the court did not follow the analysis established in Dyas v. United States, [FN2] which requires the trial court to consider three distinct factors in determining whether to admit expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitness identifications, and to do so in the context of the proffered expert testimony and evidence in the particular case. Because we cannot say that exclusion of the expert testimony proffered here was harmless, in a case that depended exclusively on the identification of eyewitnesses, we remand for further proceedings consistent with the analysis set forth in Dyas and this opinion.
I have not yet read the opinion but it looks to be an attempt at a comprehensive analysis of the general and much-mooted question of the admissibility of expert testimony about the reliability or unreliability of eyewitness identification.

The expert involved was Steven Penrod.

Stay tuned for possible further discussion of this opinion.

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Go to Spindle Law's Evidence Module for legal rules and principles governing expert evidence about eyewitness identification.

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