Pre-thinking:

What if you were innocent of a crime but were convicted based on the testimony of 6 witnesses? An impossibility – unfortunately it may be more common than you realize. And, yes, it could happen to you or someone you love. Note that once convicted, it is very difficult to convince others of your innocence.

Why you should listen:

When it comes to witnesses in criminal trials, the accuracy of human memory can mean the difference between life and death.

In 2011 Fraser was involved in the retrial of a 1992 murder case in which Francisco Carrillo was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences in prison. Fraser and the team that hired him staged a dramatic reenactment of the night of the murder in question and showed the testimonies that had put Carrillo in jail were unreliable. After 20 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Carrillo was freed.

Who is he:

Scott Fraser is an expert witness who researches what’s real and what’s selective when it comes to human memory and crime. His areas of expertise include human night vision, neuropsychopharmacology, and the effect of stress and other factors on the human mind. He has testified in criminal and civil cases throughout the U.S. in state and federal courts.

Questions:

  1. How can science help law enforcement to make good decisions?
  1. What does he mean when he states that “all our memories are reconstructed memories”?
  1. Why was it such an important turning point when the judge went to the crime scene? Should this be standard practice for important trials?
  1. Does the fact that the six eyewitnesses who testified against Francisco Carrillo were teens have any relevance? Think about what you’ve learned about teen brain development and/or research the topic.
  1. What does he mean by the statement, “the brain abhors a vacuum”?
  1. Find out more about the Innocence Project. Read the book The Innocent Man by John Grisham and write a paper telling what you’ve learned about wrongful conviction.

Making Connections:

Another talk by Dr. Scott Frasaer: Forensic neuroscience can mean life or death

Why eyewitnesses get it wrong with Scott Fraser

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