Thursday, April 4, 2013

Either eye-witnesses are credible or they're not. (You can't have it both ways)

Recently there has been a lot of noise from innocence types about the flaws that run rampant in eye-witness identification.  If we're talking about murder, there could be 500 people that watch the event live and the good folks from the Innocence Project are going to do their darnedest to convince you that each and every one of them are a bunch of racist, classist buffoons who couldn't ID the President in a line-up if you spotted them two guesses and limited the sample size to the man himself. 

I say this not to disparage the work that the Innocence project is accomplishing, but to highlight the inconsistency as presented in the following....

Houston man shot multiple times while investigating noise outside. Dale Lezon, Chron.com
Racus said investigators don't know why the man was shot and have no descriptions of the suspects who shot him. He said investigators at the scene found several shell casings from two different guns. A witness said one of the suspects may have been carrying an AK-47 rifle.
Emphasis mine.

So, let's get this straight.  You have man who was tragically shot and killed while eyewitnesses stood around, none of whom could provide the police with any description of the shooters, yet the Mr. Lezon, and his editors presumably, have decided that the same people who couldn't tell who shot the man were experts enough on firearms to make a positive identification of an AK-47 to the point it had to be in the story?

This from a newspaper that publicly stopped, years ago, providing skin color information on shooters because of concerns people were 'scorekeeping'.  I understand not wanting to get it wrong when it comes to a suspect, but you can't have it the other way around and choose to possibly get it wrong on hot-button issues (gun control) just because it happens to be a belief you personally hold. You certainly cannot do this when your employer has run several opinion columns disparaging the accuracy of eye-witnesses.  Either eye-witness testimony is worthy of being included in a preliminary news story or it is not.  It really is that simple.

Leaving the pro-gun control bias out of the story what we do know is that a man was tragically shot multiple times and died.  He was shot by two men, for whom we have no description, using guns of what type we also don't know.  There is no credible eye-witness testimony available because the eye-witnesses in question were unable to provide even a basic description of the shooters.  We don't know what type of gun was used, nor does anything the eyewitnesses say regarding gun type have any credibility since they obviously weren't observant enough to provide even basic information to the police.

We also have a former newspaper of record who's trying to have it both ways on eyewitness ID.  They want it to not count when the death penalty is on the line because they oppose state executions, but they want to keep it in place when gun identification is on the line because they support the idea of banning certain types of guns from the public.  That's not journalism, that's advocacy.

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