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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

01-17-05

Contacts:

Pat Miller, Lectures, (515) 294-9935

Gary Wells, Psychology, (515) 294-6033

David Gieseke, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (515) 294-7742

Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986

Eyewitness identification and police lineups topic of Feb. 7 ISU Presidential Lecture

AMES, Iowa -- While you're waiting in line at the mall food court, a woman begins to scream as her purse disappears with a young man you had noticed moments before loitering near the entrance. You offer your name to mall security officers, confident that you can identify the perpetrator. Three days later, you are called to review a police lineup. Can you accurately recall the perpetrator after that length of time?

Not likely, suggests research conducted by Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences (psychology) Gary Wells.

Wells, a national authority on eyewitness identification, will present the spring 2005 ISU Presidential University Lecture at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, in the Sun Room, Memorial Union. A 7 p.m. reception in the South Ballroom will feature research and presentations by other faculty members and students in the department of psychology. Both events are free and open to the public.

During his lecture, "Do the Eyes Have It? The Mistaken Eyewitness," Wells will call into question how police departments use police lineups and explain how his experiments with memory are helping to reshape the justice system.

Wells' research took on added emphasis in the 1990s as DNA evidence became crucial to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted individuals.

"The justice system does not understand the frailties of memory and too readily accepts eyewitness identification evidence without instituting appropriate controls," Wells said. "Of the more than 160 prisoners who have been proven innocent with DNA tests, 75 percent were victims of mistaken identification."

Wells' work primarily has focused on reforming the lineup method by which eyewitnesses make identifications. His research, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, has led to the development of new techniques that increasingly are being accepted in law enforcement departments nationally.

He has served as an expert for the defense and prosecution in criminal and civil cases. He has authored more than 150 articles and chapters and two books. His work has received national media attention.

The Presidential Lecture Series was created to highlight faculty excellence in learning, discovery and engagement. Members of Iowa State's faculty present lectures from their areas of expertise on topics of interest to the general public.

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy, following a nomination process, selected Wells this semester. A $1,000 award accompanies the distinction.

For more information on Wells' research, visit Wells' homepage.

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Gary Wells

Gary Wells is a national authority who is working to reform the eyewitness lineup method. For a print-quality photo contact News Service at 294-3720

Quote

"The justice system does not understand the frailties of memory and too readily accepts eyewitness identification evidence without instituting appropriate controls. Of the more than 160 prisoners who have been proven innocent with DNA tests, 75 percent were victims of mistaken identification."

-- Distinguished Professor Gary Wells