A study exploring Social Psychology and the Law

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The American judicial system for ages has held trust in eyewitness testimony. Jury selection is a wonderful experience and everyone should have that opportunity. DNA use today by the attorneys of the project case profiles organization cast a dark cloud over eyewitness testimony and conviction of innocent people that have been incarcerated. Due to this cloud, we now are opening the eye of the judicial system jury deliberation, which allows them to think twice in using their cognitive skills to critically think and discuss eyewitness testimony. Social psychologist has performed studies into the reliability of the human mind and what it sees, hears, remembers and processes the truth. Is whether a jury bases on their attribution errors decide for themselves what the witness is saying. The use of Legal Psychology involvement forces the jury system to use their cognitive abilities when deliberating the evidence against the accused.

One wonders if because of the high rise in the crime rate in the United Sates whether stiffer sentencing actually is deterring crime. Prosecutor are producing high convection rates which seems to stroke what society would want however are they just satisfying their egos'. The judicial system should be looking for the truth instead of incarcerating people that obviously have problems. This causes the law-abiding citizen to spend more tax dollars on prison to house these criminals.

Social Psychology and the Law

Since the time when human beings first gathered into groups, clans, tribes, villages, and societies, there has arisen the struggle to regulate those societies and relationships in a way that preserved the peace and stability of those groups. We only have to look at the Old Testament to see the development of rules and laws that circumscribed the early Judaic communities, which provided a system of laws that, preserved the cohesiveness of the community, prescribed, and recommended punishments for lawbreakers. There are examples of other list of codes or laws from early history that indicates the importance for most societies to establish a set of rules by which the society could regulate the behaviors of its members and preserve the society and culture. Take for example the Code of Hammurabi, written about 1750 BCE, the Code of Ur-Nammu, written between 2100 and 2050 BCE in ancient Samaria, or any other system of Cuneiform law, which are some of the earliest examples of law and punishment.

What these codes of law had in common was that even though they sought to codify the relationships and responsibilities within each society, the deliberator and determiner of guilt or innocence was usually a single person with power, the king or ruler or their designate. In terms of legal systems this relationship between the lawbreaker and those with power, remained in tack throughout ancient times and into the middle ages. When the framers of the American Constitution took the determination of guilt or innocence out of the hands of the privileged and powerful and made the determiner a jury of a person's peers, was a novel shift innovation to the legal systems that had existed up until that time.

Since that shift in American jurisprudence, we have been grappling with defining what constitutes a jury of peers, rules of evidence, and the like and social scientists as well as legal experts have engaged in the task of improving the American system of justice. No one would argue that moving from the days of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was not a vast improvement to our legal system. No one would wish to go back to the days of Hammurabi's Code, but our present challenge is to use the information garnered through the research of social scientist, (social-cultural psychologist, sociologist, criminologist, forensic psychologist, and the like). They will provide the research findings needed to improve our system of justice so that the guilty and the innocent are dealt with justly. (Code of Hammurabi, 2011)

The discovery of DNA has cast a cloud over eyewitness testimony and conviction of innocent people that have been incarcerated. There have been 267 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States so far. This also includes seventeen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release. These incidents are occurring more and more where people that are innocent gain their freedom through post-conviction testing. They are not proof, however, that our system is righting itself. The common themes that run through these cases - from a global issue representing poverty and racial character to criminal justice issues as eyewitness false identification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police, prosecutor, from the bench attributable errors and inept defense counsel - cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system. (Innocence project case profiles, 2011).

The American judicial system places an enormously high level of trust in eyewitness testimony. Jurors also give the same high level of credence to evidence based on eyewitness testimony. In some cases, we have jurors and the prosecution overestimating the accuracy of eyewitnesses. Does certainty means accuracy is a question we all should look into before accepting solely what the witness says when answering the prosecution. Example, the prosecution asks Miss Donnelly are you certain that the defendant was the person who assaulted you on February 2, 2010. The prosecution knows that in the mind of common people that certainty means she has no doubt and that her eyewitness testimony is accurate. Nonetheless, certainty and accuracy are not the same thing. Certainty is the state of being confident based on what you assume you know. Accuracy is freedom from mistakes or errors: correctness. (Merriam-Webster online dictionary, 2011)

The reason eyewitnesses are often wrong is because he or she should be required to complete three stages of the memory processing, that being acquisition, or noticing and attending to the particular information out of all the information available; storage, or storing the information in memory; and retrieval, or recalling the information stored in their memories. Only a subset of the information available at one phase makes it to the next stage in the process; eyewitnesses can be inaccurate because of problems at any stage. Eyewitness testimony is considered in today's judicial system as the most trustworthy evidence that can be presented at trials. Through the work of organizations as the Innocence Project and the research of social psychologist, we begin to understand how our internal processes and social interactions affect our memory. It is obvious given the number of persons falsely convicted on the bases of eyewitness testimony that we need to do something to increase the reliability of witness testimony and to adjust to its limitations. (Memon, Holly, Wark, Bull, & Koehnken, 1997)

The human memory process is pliable and can be affected by a variety of factors. How close, (distant to the event), how engaged we are in the event the race of the people involved in the event, another psychosocial variables that effect our perception of the situation. (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010) Our memories can be affected at any or all stages of the memory process, acquisition, storage and recall. Acquisition is the process by which we take our experiences of events. According to Aronson, this process can be affective by at least five factors. Our acquisition can be effected by distance, (how close we are to the event), our own personal perspective or filters, the immediately precede to threat (or what draws our attention and focus for example a weapon), our familiarity with the brace or culture (cultural bias), and sometimes inability to assess unusual changes or data in the event, which is change bias.

(Innocence project case profiles, 2011)

Our memories are not photographs in an album that merely fade with time; they can be distorted by information encountered after an event has occurred, a phenomenon known as reconstructive memory. The specific areas of concern are the question an attorney or investigators ask (leading questions), and the amending of memories based on information received and process after the event. Leading questions encourages the witness to give answers bases on the perceived expectations of the person answering the question. While, it is equally problematic to have the witness reshape their memories base on additional data received from outside sources, for example the media, other witnesses or the investigators. The third phase of the memory process is retrieval. There is so much data to be taken in, in any given event that by necessity we only taken and store a portion of the data. We often resort to a best gest tragedy in relaying information to others. In other words, take the facts that we have fill in the blanks and postulate an answer. Lastly, witnesses often have difficulty finding words to describe the event (verbalization). Often criminals are convicted because an eyewitness selected them from a criminal lineup. (Aronson, Wilson, & Acker, 2010), (Eyewitness misidentification, 2011)

Nevertheless, the result of the lineup predicated on who else is included in the lineup. Witnesses will pick out of the lineup the person who resembles the accused suspect even if the resemblance is not strong. (Aronson, Wilson, & Acker, 2010) Responding quickly, for example in photo spread inaccurate witnesses compare one picture to another. This normally takes a lot of time and more thinking, which can lead to the mistaken identity. It has been suggested that we should however believe witnesses who, state that they knew immediately on see the pictures that he was the one. In addition, jurors should follow the 10-12 second rule that says if the witness identified the suspect out of the photo array within the suggested time element, we may accept the reliability of their identification of the suspect. (In similar situations, when I have studied a photo array, looking at every picture and after 10-30 seconds, I made my choice with the utmost confidence that I was choosing the right one.) (Dunning & Perretta, 2002) Additionally, even when witnesses are instructed to write down their description of the event and the suspect after the event, their memories are may not be necessarily more reliable. (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010)

The use of DNA testing has helped to convict the guilty and free the innocent. It could be a wonderful tool that both the state and the defense attorney can use to achieve justice. I have stated earlier that 267 innocent people were imprisoned and are now free due DNA testing and evidence. All because of a false witness identification. Frequently, in these cases, the states have tried to compensate the victims as best as possible. Nevertheless, one cannot make up loss time with money. Example, say you were convicted for rape. Your life has been turned upside down because you lose your family, friends and your livelihood. The person's mental state suffers on a daily bases, while they are in prison knowing that they are indeed innocent. In spite of the suffering one under goes, it does not stop there - your children and family are also suffering. (Innocence project case profiles, 2011)

The media places your face, (the face of the accused), your conviction and the story is plastered all over your community. The children suffer day in and day out when they attend school or any social event, sometimes to the point they have to relocate. Next, what about the seventeen people put to death, how do you compensate them, or their families? Money cannot return them to life nor compensate for their loss. Money would not alleviate the triple pain the family endures while their love one is in prison and next he or she is put to death by the state and the emotional pain which follows when they find out that their love one (the accused) was innocent all along. All this can happen because of an eyewitness's false identification.

DNA is one remedy to prevent false eyewitness identification, are their others to help with cases where there is no DNA? Possible other remedies of eyewitness false identification would be sequential lineups where the witness is shown a lineup set of members one at a time. The witness has to identify whether or not the accused is the perpetrator before they can move on to the next person. This way the witnesses are forces to use an absolute judgment strategy than a relative judgment strategy. The witness is not able to choose someone from the group who may look like their assailant. Another, would be specific instruction to witnesses, here the person in charge of the lineup would give verbal instructions deterring the witness from being under applied pressure to make a selection from the lineup. It is put into play to prevent the witness from looking at the administrator for feedback during the procedure. The witnesses are made aware that the administrator does not know who the suspect is and the suspect may or may not be in the lineup. The belief in some of these remedies along with DNA can slow or even stop some of the eyewitness false identification. (Eyewitness misidentification, 2011)

Judging, if whether a witness is misrepresenting their testimony when speaking to the jury is not that simple. After all as a juror, the information we are receiving should be the truth and only the truth because the witness placed their hands on the bible and sword to tell the truth. Actually, everyone involved in the case should be wondering whether the truth is being told. The truth is not just an anomaly for courtrooms, even in the outside world struggles telling the truth, your family members, friends and associates wonder whether to truth is being told. There are those who misrepresent the truth at the drop of a hat and think nothing of it but there are also those who through cognitive dissonance (or trying to resolve it) or by making fundamental attribution errors find themselves on the wrong side of the truth. Often in today society, lying can be considered a prerequisite for communicating with others. We cannot pass on a truthful though without embellishing it in some way. You might stretch the truth about your son or daughter's athletic achievements or your tax exemption deduction to the IRS. People have been known to increase the amount of money they actually inherited from their rich old uncle who pasted away. Simply to boast to their friends that they will be living better them in the future, just to stroke their self-esteem. Men embellish about their careers and annual salaries to a certain extent. We have rationalized that it is not a bad thing, depending on the purpose it serves.

Therefore, why should we take eyewitness testimony for absolute truth, when we know that most of us, (if not all of us,) filter our experiences to fit into our personal realities? Often it may be the case that for whatever reason less than the whole truth may be stated in court, (embellishment) about what the witness observed or what a person stated. Witnesses are human too and because of this, we should take what they say as if we were swallowing vinegar.

"Some people can become talented liars who rarely are called on the carpet, but most liars give themselves away through body language or slips of the tongue." (Five tips: How to tell if someone is lying to you, 2011) The skills to understand how to recognize the signs that you may judge if a person is speaking the truth are suggested below.

Body language - people who speak the truth normally their bodies are relaxed. Their arms are naturally at their sides or they are used in an animated way to help present their communication. People who are not telling the truth usually cross their arms across their chest, forming a fort like protection against examination. They rarely leave their arms in a relaxed position or use their hands to animate a point. The misrepresentation of the truth causes the body to stiffen up, which results in the loss of fluid a motion. (Five tips: How to tell if someone is lying to you, 2011)

Eye contact - people who speak veraciously will normally keep eye contact while they are communicating. The skilled equivocator may also keep eye contact, but they are likely searching for acceptance. If the person who is speaking does not maintain eye contact, there is every chance he or she is misleading you. Speaking the non-truth on purpose often generates a moral quandary within a persons' conscientious. The advantage of twisting the truth must overshadow a lifetime moral condescension in order for it to work. A person's eyes are often seen as the connection to a their soul, so direct eye contact may betray a liar. (Five tips: How to tell if someone is lying to you, 2011)

Lapse in logic - "A liar will usually keep the details of a fictional story to a bare minimum or else become too elaborate for credibility. The best way to spot a person who is not telling the truth is to allow him or her to tell the complete story until he or she is satisfied it has been told." (Five tips: How to tell if someone is lying to you, 2011) Therefore, when their version has become public knowledge, it is much easier to pin point lapses in what is the truth. Witnesses who are honest may claim to have seen a suspect in front of the bank, but will not remember how he arrived on the scene. A lying partner may suggest they were so late coming home because the bosses ask them to work on a project, but cannot tell you what the project entailed. Liars also tend to recall important points as their stories begin to fall apart. Veracious people may forget minor items but they rarely have sudden sparks of memory while being interrogated. (Five tips: How to tell if someone is lying to you, 2011)

An another tool one can use to help eliminate any doubt and builds confidence in what a witness has stated is to institute a required polygraph test for the witnesses. Polygraph test - an instrument that magnitude people's physiological responses (e.g., their heart rate); polygraph operators attempt to tell if someone is lying by observing that person's physiological responses while answering questions. The validity of the polygraph testing rank about 61% as been accurate therefore would be another tool lending credibility to the witness testimony. Of course, if for whatever reason the person believes their version of events, a polygraph can be rendered even more ineffective. (Vergano, 2002)

The real problem of obfuscating the truth is that for the most part the truth is the only thing we have that is dependable. Our not being able to remedy the dissonance between what we saw and experienced, (and subsequently filtered through our own realities), plus our propensity to ascribe faulty attributions (fundamental attribution error) makes supposedly eye witness testimony without corroborating evidence sketchy at best. It becomes even more problematic when fabricating becomes a way to rationalize whom we are and what we have to loose or gain in any situation. Not telling the truth has a way of damaging not only ourselves, but also our families, friends and other important relationships.

In today's society the quandary, of trying to determine what is the truth. We have been trained by our parents, schools, churches and states to see truth as totally objective, that truth is in fact the truth and not dependent on interpretation or personal plan to simply be what it is. What we do with that veracity, how does it affect our reality is the question? Discovering the truth in today's judicial system is more than just applying the law and rules evidence. It in fact deals with removing and accounting for as many variables as possible in order to arrive at some measure of justice, some measure of the truth. In using eyewitness testimony whether they are truthful, or not it is everyone's responsibility in the legal system to ascertain. The truth here is found in the facts of the situation not the preconceive notions or prejudices of those involved in the case.

As mention before, with the discovery and acceptance of DNA evidence all sorts of questions has surfaced about how we administer justice in the United States. It forced those in law enforcement and in the judicial system to take note of the work done by social scientist and researchers. We have been forced to admit there are indeed people in our penal system that are actually falsely convicted and imprisoned and advocates have arisen. As a nation, there is a need for us to correct the judicial system to insure that people receive the justice they deserve. My thought is if we imprison one innocent person or take one innocent life in the cause of what we call justice, then how are we any different that the murderer whom has no consideration or compassion for the person they kill? We need to adjust our judicial system and feelings about crime and punishment. (Eyewitness misidentification, 2011)

In recent years, we have been plagued by ever in rising crime statistic. There is no doubt that some the circumstances surrounding these events have been starling and frightening. Our repose as a culture has been to get, what we refer to as tough on crime. We have lengthen prison terms, implemented the three strike and you are out, and going on a rampage of sentencing people to death. The issue is whether retributive sentencing action by the criminal justice systems actually deters crime. (Robertson, 2011)

On one hand social scientist could say the answer is yes, relying on the sheer numbers of people taken off the street an imprisoned it seem we cannot build jails fast enough. Although this may be true is this the best use of our resources. It relies on a theory or hypothesis that individuals just wake up one morning and decides to commit crime. Research, however indicates a stronger correlation between the psychological, socio-psychological /cultural, and economic factors that affect a person decision to commit a crime it is unlikely that outside of specific pathology's that most people would not amend their lives if given the opportunity to achieve some sort of stability and balance in their lives.

For example people are arrest repeatedly for drug offenses meaning the sell and manufacturing, would these people still engage if more productive and viable means of support where open to them. A lengthy jail term has not been effective in stopping the use of illegal drugs being housed in a prison has not been proven to increase the well - being and stability of those suffering from mental illness. Research indicates that if we were serious about reducing crime we would do a better job at reducing the condition and stressor that give rise to most criminal activity. (FBI: Violent crime on the rise, 2007)

Juries - A jury is a sworn group of people assigned together to delivers an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially given to them by a judge, or to set a penalty or judgments. Today's juries tend to be found in courts to decide whether a suspect is not guilty or not guilty of a crime. (There is no verdict as "innocent"). They are composed of jurors, who are by definition are a group of nonprofessional finders of fact, but should be truth finder. A jury trial (or trial by jury) is the legal proceeding mention above. Juries, after listening to all the witnesses' testimony and viewing all the evidence will proceeds to what is called the jury deliberation phase. (Jury, 2011)

"Jury deliberation is the process by which a jury in a trial in court discusses in private the findings of the court and decides with which argument to come to an agreement. After receiving the jury instructions and hearing the final arguments, the jury retires to the jury room to begin deliberating. In most states, there is a presiding juror. The presiding juror presides over discussions and votes of the jurors, and often delivers the verdict. The belief ensures that no one communicates with the jury during deliberations." (Jury Deliberation, 2011)

Jury deliberation is a consequential factor in the outcome of the trial. The deliberation encourages the juror to absorb all the evident and testimony and to amend any mistaken conclusions. Jurors test their elucidation of the truth of the evidence and categorize it during this discussion. The deliberation process is the phase where each juror's thoughts are spouted out and hashed over to therefore a group decision can be reached. During these informal debates, most juries reach a consensus. Usually the court provides the jury with written documents of all possible verdicts, so that it will be much easier for them to choose a proper verdict document after reaching a decision. In most trial cases, the verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous. All federal cases require a unanimous decision.

"In most occasions, deliberation produces an agreed upon verdict, but chances of a hung juries cannot be disregarded which can lead to a mistrial. If the jurors are unable to come to a consensus on a verdict even after the completion of debate and discussion, it is known as a hung jury". (Jury Deliberation, 2011) In cases where the juries are classified as hung and therefore they are undecided, then maybe it may be tried again later before a new jury based on the prosecutors' office. (Jury Deliberation, 2011) If you may have, a chance to see the movie Twelve Anger Men you would have witness a scenario of how a deliberation in a jury room may proceed. In this film adaptation one juror, convince his elven fellow juror to change their minds about defendant guilt. Here he relies on his cognitive abilities to get his fellow juror to use theirs and critically think about the evidence. They did and all eleven jurors changed their vote to not guilty. Now, based on my jury experience I have never been in a deliberation where one juror turns around the other eleven to change their minds and come to consensus toward to same decision. If in real life had this occurred would be rare. One if they find themselves in a jury room under a deliberating circumstance one should, listen carefully to what others are saying make sure your voice and thoughts are heard, ask clarifying questions. Focus on ideas and evidence and whether it is reliable or not and make sure you are respectful of what others are saying and definitely use your cognitive skills throughout the deliberation.

Prosecutors are the official banisters who examines and try felonious cases. They are district attorneys, state's attorneys, or United States attorneys. This individual prosecutes the accused for a crime in the name of the governing body. Prosecutors are public or private. The public prosecutor is a person appointed by an administration, to prosecute all offences; he or she is the attorney general or his deputy. A private prosecutor is one who prefers an accusation against a party whom they assume to be guilty. Every person may become a prosecutor, but no person is bound except in some few of the enormous offences, as treason, to be one but if the prosecutor should compound a felony, he will be guilty of a crime. The prosecutor has a persuasion to prosecute, because they cannot, for in many cases, they to have a civil remedy until he or she has done their duty to society by an endeavor to bring the offender to justice. "If a prosecutor act from proper motives, you will not be responsible to the party in damages, though he or she was mistaken in their suspicions, but if, from a motive of revenge, they institute a criminal prosecution without any reasonable foundation, he or she may be punished by being chouse in damages in an action for a malicious prosecution. In Pennsylvania, a defendant is not bound to plead to an indictment where there is a private prosecutor, until his name shall have been indorsed on the indictment and on acquittal of the defendant, in all cases except where the charge is for a felony, the jury may direct that he shall pay the costs." (Lectric Law Library's Lexicon, 2011) Here, the majority of state prosecutors feel that they are serving their public and performing their duty to the best of their ability. In their heart, they are during the right thing, but what about the prosecutor whose primary goal is to maintain a high conviction rate. The only thing that counts is the 90 percent plus rating they possess and what they can do to maintain it. Do we fully heart fully think that this is called justice, what about if the prosecutor solely purpose was not to enslave people by convicting them but to seek the truth even though the evidence is compiled against a defendant. The circumstance evidence sometimes is what it is circumstantial. In addition, individual prosecutor goes after the accused full force for a conviction ignoring even when other evidence proposes a doubt. If the prosecutor job were to convict when necessary and to search for innocent then there would not be people falsely imprisoned. The prosecutor, the defensive attorney and also the courts, and the police should be searching for the truth. Not just arresting, and gathering evidence for the prosecutor to use in court. The prosecutor should have to release all evidence gathered to the defense and not what he is going to use in court. (This is the current rule of evidence, but is not always the case. Another problem because of the inequity of resources is that often a defendant may not have the money and support needed to prove their innocent. A novel idea would be for the prosecutor to have to present all the evidence and take the position of Devil's Advocate in ensuring that all evidence is heard and groupthink is avoided. The objective is to get to the truth. In other words the prosecutor would not worry about his conviction rate but the truth. This would allow for the possibility of a jury being persuaded by the facts and not emotional arguments.) They sometimes they possess evidence, which may bring about doubt of the guilt off the defendant that never get in court. Therefore, I said again, why are they not about the truth of a case instead of just trying to pad their high percentage rate of convictions.

In the last twenty years or so the prosecuting office has had it easy in maintain this high percentage conviction rate because, because in most states prison time has replaced treatment in mental institutions. These state institutions closed and place their patients on to the streets some without medication and someone to make certain they are taking their medication. The war on drugs has changed over the last twenty years also, where we were supposed to incarcerate the drug dealer, we are now convicting the sick people who are hooked on taken the drugs inflating the conviction rate of the prosecutor. Should we spend all of our tax money on imprisonment or we should be spending it on mental help facilities which a lot of the incarcerated need. (Lectric Law Library's Lexicon, 2011)

Justice in the world since the early humankind first gathered into groups, clans, tribes, villages, and societies, and the first set of Cuneiform law has progress a long way to assure that ordinary people receive some sort of justice. The marriage between Social Psychology and Forensic Psychology has done wonders toward aiding in the crusade to the truth of evidence. This union has a name called a legal psychology, which is the carrefour between psychology and the criminal justice system. " It involves comprehension of the criminal law in a particular jurisdiction in order to be able to interact appropriately with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. An important aspect of a legal psychologist is the ability to testify in court, articulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom, providing information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood. In order to be a plausible witness, for example in the United States, the legal psychologist must understand the philosophy, rules and standards of the American judicial system." (Legal Psychology, 2011) "The chief function is to be able to understand the inimical system. There are also rules about hearsay evidence and most importantly, the exclusionary rule. Lack of a firm grasp of these procedures will result in the legal psychologist losing their believability in the courtroom. A legal psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational or any other branch of psychology. In the United States, the prominent factor is the appellation by the court as an experienced witness by training, experience or both by the judge. Generally, a legal psychologist is designated as an expert in a particular jurisdiction." (Legal Psychology, 2011)

The involvement of social psychologist and the law of the newly discovery DNA has turn the judicial system to a fact finding system whereby justice is not the only end. Remember justice does not mean the truth but with discovery of DNA, we can find the truth to assure that the right person is incarcerate or executed. The belief that if one life of a person is falsely incarcerated or executed is a travesty, an abomination of humankind. Therefore, we should want to get it right the first time. No, we must get it right the first time.

The use of Legal Psychology involvement forces the jury system to use their cognitive abilities when deliberating the evidence against the accused. Now, only if the state prosecuting offices star to use all of their resources for gathering the truth instead of justice surface evidence then we as a society, the prosecuting attorney, and the state may get closer to being able to say in this particular case the accused was found to be innocent, free from legal guilt or fault a none existing verbal term.

CONCLUSION

We have come a long way since the days of Hammurabi and his code. We have come a long way from the days when jurisprudence was in the hands of the wealthy, powerful and well connected. Investigation of crime is no longer dependent on torture and forcing the accused to confess and admit to guilt whether they are actually guilty or not. We have come some distance from the days where retribution and revenge drove our consideration of the punishments meted out. Our have we?

The framers of the American Constitution took momentous leaps forward in the establishment of the American legal system, with its system of courts, the establishment of the innocent before guilty principle, its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments and the establishment of rules and principals to guide investigations and prosecutions. The contributions of social and cultural psychology can only enhance American Jurisprudence when its findings are considered in conjunction with the contributions of forensic psychology. The goal and the aim on one hand is justice for the accused and the victim. On the other hand, we need to have a firmer grasp of the causal factors of human behavior so that we might stop filling prison cells with those who have mental and emotion challenges and pathologies. Maybe it is time to acknowledgement that for the most part individuals do not commit crimes without some psychological or socio-economic reason and perhaps it would behoove us as a culture to find remedies outside of the criminal justice system.

Social and cultural psychology has much to say about a witness's, investigator's and jury's cognition, for example the process of human memory and how best to aid a witness in remembering the facts of an event, identifying the possible offender and the articulation of and the articulation of what they know about an event. Merely, acknowledging that our assumptions about eyewitness testimony and jury perceptions should continue to push us towards a system of justice that seeks justice. Further, the cognitive dissonance that impedes the cause of justice and allows us to push forever-increasing sentencing guidelines and retribution and revenge as appose to offering offenders a real chance for changing their lives and receiving redemption. We need to address all these things and more as we continue to study, understand, and reshape our legal system so that it truly provides justice for all. Hammurabi's eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, may seem a logical conclusion and reasonable for some in our society but a system of justice that sets the innocent free and provides adequate and reasonable remedies for the guilty should be our goal. What we seek is a justice system that is truly just.

References

Alarming Statistics on Rising Crime Rates - Why is Crime So Popular? (2011). Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Alarming-Statistics-on-Rising-Crime-Rates---Why-is-Crime-So-Popular?&id=3183580

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Acker, R. M. (2010). Social Psychology (7th ed.). Eglewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice.

Code of Hammurabi. (2011). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

Polygraph. (2011). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/polygraph

Vergano, D. (2002). Telling the truth about lie detectors. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-09-lie_x.htm

Wells, G. L., Memon, A., & Penrod, S. D. (2006). Eyewitness evidence: Improving its probative value.. Psychological Science In The Public Interest, 7(2), 45-75.

Why are eyewitnesses often wrong?. (2010). Retrieved from http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_aronson_socpsych_6/64/16430/4206145.cw/-/4206204/index.html

Dunning, D., & Perretta, S. (2002). Automaticity and eyewitness accuracy: a 10-12 second rule for distinguishing accurate from in accurate positive identifications. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 951-962.

FBI: Violent Crime On The Rise. (September 24, 2007). Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=2878207n

Five tips: How to tell if someone is to you.. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.essortment.com/5-tips-tell-someone-lying-you-17298.html

Forensic psychology. (2011). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_psychology

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Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.