Reading related essay: “Your Brain on Trial” Level **** reading tasks
All judicial systems are plagued by miscarriages of justice and some of them are on a very large scale. We read or hear on the news of people being released from prison having been cleared by DNA evidence after spending half their lives in prison. Often they get compensation but does this really make up for years of lost opportunities? The aim of every judicial system is to first and foremost prevent such gross errors from taking place. A group of psychologists, having examined police procedures, have come up with various suggestions some concerning the period before the trial and others concerning the actual trial.
There are various changes which can be made to standard procedures before the trial to ensure greater fairness and accuracy. The first involves line ups where suspects are identified. The standard procedure is to line up ethnically and physically similar people and then ask the witness to pick the guilty party. Implying that the guilty party is in the lineup forces witnesses to pick someone, despite not being sure if the guilty party is in fact present. Leading questions don’t help either. The alternative is showing the witness photos or suspects one by one and asking if they recognize anyone. Confessions should also be taken with a pinch of salt if they are to be believed. According to the text, 27% of all confessions are false. In order to save time, convict the right person and provide justice, all interrogations should be videotaped in such a way that the whole room is visible and an attorney should always be present.
There are various changes that should be made in courtroom procedures too to provide justice. The first issue is the selection of the jury: a racially mixed jury has been found to more thorough and much fairer so this should be ensured. An all white jury on the other hand, has been found to be much tougher on black defendants so this needs to be avoided. Secondly, during the trial, when judges ask a specific fact to be ignored by the jury, reasons should be given to make sure that they are actually ignored. Not giving reasons but just telling the jury to disregard a particular statement has been found to have no effect at all. Reading out the charges at the beginning of the trial also leads the jury to try and find evidence with which to convict the defendant.
As can be seen, human psychology is of great value when trying to arrive at the truth and deliver justice. With the help of information provided by psychologists, the number of judicial errors could, perhaps, be minimized, which would benefit the individuals concerned as well as the state and the institution.
Provided by: The Oracle