Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Letters Extra: Tale of the tape bests eye witness

Technology showed what the naked eye missed: Tahmir Craig was not the man visible in a murder-scene video.

Letters Extra: Tale of the tape bests eye witness

Tahmir Craig gets out of his mother´s car - a free man. With him is his mom,  Melonie Craig.  (Photo: Mari A. Schaefer)
Tahmir Craig gets out of his mother's car - a free man. With him is his mom, Melonie Craig. (Photo: Mari A. Schaefer)

In clearing Tahmir Craig of the Chester shooting death of Devon Williams, the prosecutor played fair and square and kept investigating, and technology showed what the naked eye missed: Craig was not the man visible in a murder-scene video ("No longer jailed in Delco," March 21).

But the news isn't all good. After all, Craig was jailed for more than nine months, based primarily on video identification by a neighborhood store owner of a different race. This happened in the absence of any other evidence and in the face of an alibi and some proof that Craig was on Facebook at the time of the crime. Even though the research is clear that problems exist with cross-racial eyewitness identification, Chester police banked on it, and it took prodding to get the video-enhancement done.

In December, the Oregon Supreme Court emphasized that evaluating eyewitness testimony is often guesswork. It said that "while empirical evidence suggests that a certain percentage of eyewitness identifications are incorrect, we often have no way to determine whether or not a particular eyewitness is accurate in identifying a specific individual."

It is time that the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania recognizes this, takes greater care with identification evidence before making an arrest, and promptly investigates both corroborating and contrary proof. Craig was lucky, since there was video technology to exonerate him. But what of the next arrest when there is no tape?

Jules Epstein, associate professor, Widener University School of Law, Wilmington

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

Find out more about The Inquirer's Editorial Board here.

The Inquirer Editorial Board
Also on
letter icon Newsletter