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Criminal Nuggets

Oct 19, 2016

In Episode 246 (Duration 44:57), she clearly articulates exactly how an eyewitness expert can be used in a criminal case.

Go to show notes.

Who is Professor Berkowitz?

Professor Dr. Shari Berkowitz is on the faculty at California State University Dominguez. She is an assistant professor of criminal justice administration. She completed her PhD at the University of California Irvine under her mentor Dr. Elizabeth Loftus.  

Her particular research interests include: eyewitness memory, false memory, false confession, and the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions. Dr. Berkowitz serves as an expert witness and consultant in legal cases involving eyewitness memory and memory distortion.

She has consulted in criminal, civil, state, federal and military courts for both sides. 

Listen-In As The Professor...

  • Discusses her professional background
  • Outlines exactly what eyewitness experts can and cannot do
  • Explains the very basics of how memory works 
  • Reports on her own research on false memories
  • Breaks down the structure of a typical report she may issue when she's on a case

You Won't Want To Miss...

How Professor Berkowitz studied under and was mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. How she talks about specific high profile cases which first captured her attention and interest in this field. 

Don't let the Professor's Chicago connection fly by without notice. She was formerly an assistant professor in psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

That's where she came across The Northwestern School of Law Center on Wrongful Convictions. She met the director at the time and eventually was introduced to Professor Karen Daniel who is currently the director.

Important Links & References Mentioned

More Highlights From Episode 246

✓ Straight talk on how false allegations can happen to anyone but are particularly devastating when it happens to people with limited resources.

  You've heard of "repressed memories" right? When something so bad happens to someone they block it out of memory to preserve their sanity. WRONG! There is no credible scientific evidence that "repressed memories" even exist.

✓ Which begs the question: How does a horrific memory of abuse get reported if (by the reporter's own admission) the memory never existed in the first place?

✓ What the research says about a very detailed memory combined with high emotional impact and reported with high certainty by the person recalling the memory.

✓ How a layperson's understanding of how memory works is DEAD WRONG and how that can cause huge problems in a trial.

The simple reality of how memory actually works and the three stages of memory that happen over and over and over again.

✓ Ever hear a prosecutor tell the jury that a memory was "burned" into a victim's brain or "seared" into their mind for prosperity? The research says defense counsel should be jumping up like their hair is on fire and objecting.

✓ Did you know an eyewitness identification can do more than just help educate a judge or jury? Attorneys have used experts to educate themselves, develop cross examination questions, determine if a motion to suppress should be filed, and as consultants on police line-up or photo array procedures. You'll never guess how the Professor helped in one Illinois case.

✓ What experts never say in their opinions and why this should never be a reason to exclude your own expert witness.

✓ Education, Education, Education is the number one priority, task and goal of an eyewitness identification expert witness. Does your judge or jury know what the latest research on eyewitness memory says? Does your judge or jury know how the science relates to the facts in your case? Of course not, that's why you get an expert. 

✓ Weighing the evidence and credibility determinations always remains with the jury. Don't you want to arm them with the right tools to properly weigh the identification of the accused?

✓ Discover the difference between how true and false memories look to the brain.

✓ Why your jury needs to be aware of the three stages of memory. (Hint: It's all about the distortions that can occur at each stage.)

Bet you've never seen this procedure followed in a lineup. Knowing about it will easily help you determine if the lineup used in your case was fair to the defendant.

✓ Lawyers have learned to be skeptical of eyewitness evidence. However, if you don't know the details behind the skepticism you are no good to your client and easily out matched by a skilled adversary.

✓ I asked the professor point blank, "What kinds of cases should attorneys be looking for to determine if an eyewitness expert can help?" Her reply will make you rethink your entire practice.