Witness Identifications at Scott Watson's Trial
The so-called witness identification methods used for Scott's trial were shocking to say the least. For one thing, these identifications were carried out well after Scott's name and image had been broadcast over national television on several occasions with his boat being named on an almost daily basis. For example, in one photographic montage Scott was the only person with tattoos on his arms and this was after the police stated publicly that they were after a man with tattoos. What choice would any potential witness have other than to pick him? It is also interesting to note that the police weren't looking for a tattooed man until after they had interviewed and photographed Scott.
Another example of bad identification was that of one of the two Gays who was adamant that he saw Scott's boat wallowing in Cook Strait from the ferry "Aratika" albeit towing an aluminium dinghy instead of Scott's wooden one. This identification was achieved after he was shown a single photograph of Scott's yacht "Blade". This purported sighting was completely ruled out at the trial after hearing evidence from the ship's captain, an expert on tidal movements and other witnesses who placed "Blade" at a different location miles away.
To learn more details of the photographic montage identification methods used click onto montage A & B below. If you would like to find out how you would fear if you were asked to identify a suspect just click onto the Witness Identification exercise below. The Witness Identification article will give you an idea of the witness identification procedures that have now become law in the United States in an attempt to reduce wrongful convictions. The New Zealand law commission has also recommended changes to the rules of evidence based on this research. A report was submitted to parliament recommending a complete revamp of the law in August 1999. The Gary L Wells website contains a lot of useful information on this subject and is well worth a look.
Click here to view the recent Sunday Star Times article challenging the identification evidence produced for the trial.