Eyewitness-Identification Decisions as Brady Material: Disclosing Information About Prior Decisions Affects Evaluations of Eyewitnesses

Laura Smalarz, Amy Bradfield Douglass, Angela Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eyewitnesses are sometimes asked to participate in multiple lineup procedures over the course of a criminal investigation, yet little is known about how evaluators perceive eyewitnesses who responded to an earlier identification procedure. In the current research, evaluators (N = 175) read a partial trial transcript in which the eyewitness testified to having participated in either 1 or 2 lineups over the course of the investigation. In the prior-lineup conditions, the eyewitness made an identification or a rejection decision with either high or low confidence from the prior lineup, which did not contain the defendant, and later identified the defendant from a subsequent lineup. As hypothesized, making a prior identification of someone other than the defendant decreased perceptions of the eyewitness's accuracy and led to fewer guilty verdicts. Contrary to our hypothesis, however, confidently rejecting a prior lineup that did not contain the defendant did not increase perceptions of the eyewitness's accuracy. In Experiment 2 (N = 233), we tested whether presenting eyewitness identification evidence via videotape-rather than solely through the eyewitness's testimony as in Experiment 1-strengthens the effect of a prior rejection decision on evaluations of eyewitness accuracy. As hypothesized, evidence of a prior rejection increased perceptions of an eyewitness's accuracy, but only when the identification evidence was presented via videotape. These findings illustrate that evaluators incorporate information about witnesses' prior lineup decisions into their legal judgments and that evidence of a prior identification constitutes Brady material that should be disclosed to the defense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
StateAccepted/In press - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Evaluations of eyewitnesses
  • Eyewitness confidence
  • Eyewitness identification
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Multiple lineups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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