- K.T. Helin-Glick
Is eyewitness testimony ever a basis for capital punishment?
While reading Dave Cullen's "Columbine," I came across a passage describing the problems with eyewitness accounts. The author is talking about the Columbine shootings, of course, but all I could think about was the Troy Davis trial and the role that eyewitness testimony had in his conviction.
Here is the passage:
"'Eyewitness testimony, in general, is not very accurate,' one investigator explained...'what they remember now may not be anywhere near what really happened.' Human memory can be erratic. We tend to record fragments: gunshots, explosions, trench coats, terror, sirens, screams. Images come back jumbled, but we crave coherence, so we trim them, adjust details, and assemble everything together in a story that makes sense....It happens even with the best witnesses."
- "Columbine," Dave Cullen, p. 205
We have all debated capital punishment before. What I'd like us to consider is, IF capital punishment is legal, what evidence should be required to send someone to death? Is sufficient eyewitness testimony enough? Should we require DNA evidence? Something else? Should there be consistent guidelines, or does the nature of the world mean that every capital case could have a different standard of proof for "decisive guilt?"
I'm looking just for your opinion, whatever it is. Thanks.