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NEWS RELEASE

08-20-02

Contacts:
Gary Wells, Psychology, (515) 294-6033
Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986


IOWA STATE RESEARCHER RECEIVES $330,000 GRANT TO STUDY EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University researcher has been awarded a $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study eyewitness identification.

Gary Wells, professor of psychology and distinguished professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been conducting experiments on eyewitness identification for more than 25 years.

The new research study will focus on facial composites. Facial composites are drawings of suspects, either by sketch artists or computer programs, relying on eyewitness descriptions of criminal perpetrators. Wells will study how computer composites might negatively affect eyewitness memories and bias later attempts by eyewitnesses to identify the right person from a lineup. Wells will look for ways to eliminate any negative effects of composites on eyewitness memories.

His past research has focused on finding ways to increase the reliability of police lineups that are used to identify criminal suspects. DNA exoneration cases, which have freed more than 100 innocent people from prison in recent years, show that mistaken eyewitness identification is the primary cause of wrongful convictions.

Wells' research has led to the development of ways to cut the chances of mistaken identification in half and his ideas for lineups have been adopted by several law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada.



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