Dec 09, 2009 If so many eyewitnesses really “will never forget that face,” then why do so many people mistake Albert Einstein’s face for Marilyn Monroe’s?
Unfortunately, countless innocent people are wrongfully convicted on the testimony of an eyewitness saying "I will never forget that face" when the witness never had a chance to process the image of the suspect’s face and other features in the first place, when the visual and sound observation totaled only seconds at best, and when the witness’s first priority was to emerge safely, rather than to be a photographic-memory witness. We already know through DNA evidence how often people are wrongfully convicted. Defendants have a Due Process right to call expert witnesses in identification and memory related thereto.
Earlier this year, Wired online posted this photograph that close-up looks like Albert Einstein, but from a farther distance looks like a blurry picture of Marilyn Monroe. Wired says that M.I.T. professor Aude Oliva "uses images like this one to study how our brains make sense of sight." Wired further says that: "By blending the high frequencies from one picture with the lows from another, Oliva creates images that change as a function of distance and time –allowing her to parse how humans absorb visual information."
Granted, a live observation of a purported criminal perpetrator might not blend high and low frequencies when looking at just the one person. However, what happens if a police photographic lineup involves drastically varying frequencies in each photo? What if a live identification lineup varies the lighting, darkness and other visual factors among each subject in the lineup room and varies the clothing among each person so as to make some of them stand out more and others stand our less from the crowd?
"I will never forget that face?" Is that so? How many times have you ever been surprised at how drastically an "unforgettable" face has changed between the first and second meeting with that person? Would that be more times than many hands could count?