Effects of inconsistencies in eyewitness testimony on mock-juror decision-making
In attempting to impeach eyewitnesses, attorneys often highlight inconsistencies in the eyewitness's recall. This study examined the differential impact of types of inconsistent testimony on mock-juror decisions. Each of 100 community members and 200 undergraduates viewed one of four versions of a videotaped trial in which the primary evidence against the defendant was the testimony of the eyewitness. I manipulated the types of inconsistent statements given by the eyewitness in the four versions: (1) consistent testimony, (2) information given on-the-stand but not given during the pre-trial investigation, (3) contradictions between on-the-stand and pre-trial statements, and (4) contradictions made on the witness stand. Subjects exposed to any form of inconsistent testimony were less likely to convict and found the defendant less culpable and the eyewitness less effective. These effects were larger for contradictions than for information given on the stand but not during pre-trial investigations.