TED Blog

In courtrooms, eyewitness testimony is considered extremely powerful. But should it be? At TEDxUSC, forensic psychologist Scott Fraser explains why, even when witnesses feel sure they are telling a true story, or making the right identification, their minds could be playing tricks on them — filling in blanks in traumatic memories with erroneous information.

Fraser tells the story of Francisco Carrillo, who at age 17 was identified as the gunman in a drive-by shooting that left a man dead on the street in front of his teenage son and five friends. After maintaining his innocence for 20 years, Carrillo was released from jail in 2011. (Read the Los Angeles Times’ take on his release.) While all six teenage witnesses gave testimony that they had clearly seen Carrillo fire the gun from a moving car, a re-creation of the conditions of the shooting showed that it had been…

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