any motive to lie. But you must do more than that. You must also decide how accurate the identification was -- i.e., whether or not the witness was mistaken.
I want to caution you, first, that the kind of identification testimony you heard in this case must be scrutinized carefully. Scientific studies have amply demonstrated the dangers of mistake in human perception and identification.
Of course, this does not mean that the identification in this case is incorrect. I merely tell you this so that you understand the importance of carefully evaluating the evidence here.
One of the reasons for this is that when a witness testifies in court that the defendant was the one who committed the offense, what he or she is really saying is that the defendant is the person he or she remembers seeing commit the offense.
The words "remember" and "seeing" call into question factors which bear on the ability of a person to recall and the opportunity of a person to see. If you walk into a bank and see your next door neighbor fleeing with a gun and sack, what you recall later is that you saw a person whom you recognized to be your next door neighbor. When the person is a total stranger, you do not have that kind of "anchor" to rely upon and so a subsequent identification depends on your ability to accurately recall the exact features of the individual.
In this case, a witness testified that she did not know the defendant before the crime took place and, therefore, you must carefully weigh the following factors which bear on the ability of the witness to see and accurately recall the events:
1. You should consider whether this witness had a good opportunity to see the person - how close or far away - and the length of time the witness had to observe the person who she claims is the defendant. You should also consider whether the witness's attention was focused on the weapon that was pointed at her or on the face of the perpetrator. The better the opportunity to observe and the longer the period of observation, the more accurate the identification is likely to be. Conversely a brief encounter - a matter of seconds or minutes - tends to increase the likelihood of misidentification.
2. You should consider whether the incident in which the individual participated was significant or unusual to the witness at the time it occurred.
3. You should consider how much time passed between the crime and the first identification by the witness.
4. You should consider whether a witness has given descriptions that are inconsistent with or which differ from the actual physical appearance of the person allegedly identified and also whether the witness gave different descriptions at different times. Similarly, you should consider whether a witness has given descriptions that are consistent with the actual appearance of the person allegedly identified and also whether the witness gave the same description at different times.
5. You may also consider that an identification made by picking the defendant out of a group of similar individuals, or a group of photographs of similar individuals, is generally more reliable than one which results from the presentation of the defendant alone to the witness or among a group of persons with significantly different appearances. It is also more reliable than an identification made in the courtroom where a witness expects to see the accused in the courtroom.
Even if the law enforcement officers follow the most correct photographic identification procedures and show the witnesses the pictures of a number of similar individuals without indicating whom they suspect, there is some danger that the witnesses may make an incorrect identification, even if he or she is sure of his or her identification.
If there is an initial misidentification, then you must answer the question whether thereafter the witnesses retained in their memory the image of the photograph rather than the image of the person actually seen, since under those circumstances the trustworthiness of subsequent identifications is reduced.
Even if a witness is positive of his or her identification, this does not relieve you of the duty to carefully consider his or her identification testimony, especially if you find it is the only evidence that directly supports the claims that the defendant committed the offense charged.
On the other hand, it is not essential that the witness him or herself be free from doubt as to the correctness of his or her identification of the defendant, provided you are satisfied that the government has met its burdens of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges contained in the information. If after examining the testimony of this witness and all the circumstances under which she identified the defendant and all of the other evidence in the case, you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant committed the offense charged, you should return a verdict of not guilty on both counts.
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