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The help of forensic science

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Nowadays, numerous criminal cases have been easily solved with the help of forensic science. The law enforcement officials can ascertain that the witness’s statement is accurate by using advanced technologies such as lie detectors, DNA analysis. However, there were no DNA testing, fingerprints, polygraphs during many decades ago, and the witness’s testimony was only reliable source in finding the truth in a matter. Rashomon effect occurs when different witnesses have given contradictory interpretations to the same event they have witnessed.

In the film Rashomon, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa shows how four witnesses told the same event in four contradictory ways and allows the audiences see how people make their own truths. Rashomon is a good example of story of why we shouldn’t fully trust the witnesses unless they have real evidence and facts to back up their claims because witnesses often make their own decisions and turn into the truth. The factors that contribute to the slight altercation of factual events are personal bias, misinformation and lack of evidences. Therefore, prosecutors use some effective methods; such as cross examination, physical evidences and comparing all witnesses’ statements to find the truth in all criminal cases.

Law fails to bring justice due to three main factors which can interfere with humans’ ability to reveal the truth. Among many other possibilities such as misinformation, assumptions, company biases, yellow journalism, muckraking, the most important factor is perhaps personal bias. Personal bias can be subconscious and seemingly nonexistent until further research is done on the actual background of the person who is reporting. In a witness setting, personal bias always prevents us from finding the truth because witness tends to take the side of one party and give false testimony to favor one party.

If a witness is a kin or friend, the bias is more obvious and the witness is more likely to lie in order to perpetuate an injustice. In this situation, cross examination can expose the witness’ bias. Misinformation effect would be another factor of why some eyewitnesses give inaccurate statements unintentionally. When our brains exposed to new information, an individual will be able to remember exact information that they just learned during a short period of time. As time passes by, our brains are unlikely to remember all the information we learned. According to psychologist Elizabeth Loftus states that “the questions asked after a person witnesses an event can actually have an influence on the person’s memory of that event. Sometimes when a question contains misleading information, it can distort the memory of the event.”

This proves that witnesses cannot be able to differentiate between information that they witnessed and information that they remembered afterwards because of post-event information. Most eyewitnesses share their experience of what they had just witnessed with several people. Most importantly, witnesses who have post-event discussion with co-witnesses can be more likely to report misinformation from others in their own testimonies. According to Dara Mojtahedi, a lecturer in investigative psychology and a PhD candidate with the International Research Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Human and Health Sciences, “86% of eyewitnesses had discussed the event with co-witnesses straight after the crime had taken place.” Therefore, eyewitnesses who discussed with co-witnesses about crime scene can often be wrong in their recollection. As a result, they give inaccurate statement in court since co-witnesses’ opinions had influenced his thoughts.

Therefore, misinformation effect is one main reason why witnesses give false statements during interrogation in court.

Lack of evidence can essentially end many legal cases and interfere our ability to find the truth. Evidences; such as witness testimony, weapons, and forensic evidence are important information that will be presented to the court. Judges or juries will check all the evidences in order to make verdicts. If the one party doesn’t have solid evidences to back up the things he/she is saying in the court, the party is likely to lose the case. For example, a legal case without evidences is like 100 pieces puzzle with 20 of the pieces missing. Literally, we all can assume whether it is elephant or cat pictures by using only 80 pieces of puzzle, but the remaining 20 pieces of puzzle can be aligned to draw a different picture. Although, we can tell that it’s an elephant picture without 20 pieces puzzle, we might not know whether the elephant is using its feet to kill someone or to kick a ball. Therefore, lacking the evidences can change the whole story, and it can even turn a victim into a defendant; whereas criminals can be completely acquitted due to lack of evidences. Sometimes, evidences of a crime are present but cannot be used at a trial against the criminals if the evidences are obtained in violation of the evidence rule. This rule is known as “fruit of the poison tree” which prevents law enforcement officials from obtaining evidences of a crime from seizure, arrest or illegal search. On the other hand, one party might also experience a lack of evidence when another party tries to destroy their evidences. Therefore, lack of evidences is the main reason why prosecutors drop criminal charges.

There are some methods that can help us find the truth by eliminating factors; such as personal bias, witnesses’ lies. In “Rashomon and Repression: A Multi-Source Analysis of Contentious Events”, the author Christian Davenport explains that it becomes extremely difficult to find out the truth when there are various possible contaminations of the objective truth. The article explains of how some scholars believe that there is one source capable of providing reliable untainted information, but that overlooks multiple sources; whereas others believe that there must be many different sources that tell one story. These different opinions only add to the thesis of this article. Davenport suggests that there must be a way to find the truth by comparing conflicting and dissenting articles with the widely accepted truths. By using multiple sources with multiple information viewed from conflicting sides, comparing different points of views will allow people to see the truth clearly. This method is suitable to find the most reliable truths. However, this method may be very time consuming and may turn less enthusiastic people away from implementing this method.

Cross examination is second method that can be used to reveal whether the witness is lying or not. According to Cross-Examination and Witness Credibility article, “One of the primary purposes of cross-examination is to destroy the credibility of the witness by suggesting that the witness did not perceive correctly, does not remember what he saw, is not communicating accurately what he remembers, or is lying.” (Harvard University). In other words, cross examination can make the witnesses appear unreliable when the lawyer from the opposite party ask them leading questions in order to obtain true response from the witnesses. Moreover, the judge can be able to distinguish between true testimony and false testimony of witnesses during cross-examination. If the witness is lying, he/she can’t think fast enough to tell the different story, but if it’s a true statement, it will be easier for them to answer without taking time to think. Therefore, cross examination can be helpful to expose the hidden truths in the case.
Lastly, the main method the prosecutors use to investigate the criminal cases is using physical evidences. According to Harrisburg DUI attorney Justin J. McShane who is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC – Pennsylvania’s top criminal law and DUI law firm, “We can use physical evidence to narrow down the universe of possibilities independent of eyewitnesses.” In most criminal cases, physical evidences are more reliable than eyewitnesses’ testimony because physical evidences does not have bias. Moreover, it is important to discover the physical evidences so that prosecutors can prove that crime has been committed. On the other hands, we can verify the accuracy of the eyewitnesses’ testimony by using physical evidences which link a crime, it’s victims and suspects. According to the article “America Meet Rashomon: Donald Trump and Multiple Truths”, the author states that “Rashomon demands that we put the responsibility for interpretation back where it belongs: on ourselves. We choose what interpretations make sense for us. We need to learn to examine those choices, and we need to be willing to discuss the basis on which they were made.” This implies that people often make their own truths, and they need to be ready to provide evidences and facts to back up their claims. Therefore, physical evidences be very useful in finding the culprits in many criminal cases.

Among the three methods I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, physical evidences, and comparing dissenting testimonies of witnesses can be applied in finding the truth in the film Rashomon. In the film, four witnesses told the same event in completely different ways, and the audiences have to come up with their own interpretations of the film. Therefore, we need to analyze each witness’s testimony because it is a part of a whole truth. Among four witnesses; the dead samurai and his wife was lying; whereas the bandit and woodcutter mostly told the truths. Although, the woodcutter lied about the whole incident in court in order to conceal a crime he committed, he explained the whole true incident to priest later on. Therefore, the audiences can see that the only part he lied about is stealing the dagger. The bandit and woodcutter retold the whole incident almost in the same ways. They both claimed that samurai and bandit had a battle over a woman, and samurai was killed by bandit. Therefore, it is more likely that samurai’s statement wasn’t true. The samurai confirmed that the bandit violated his wife and told her to be his woman. When the woman begged the bandit to kill her husband, the bandit knocked her off and asked samurai whether he should kill her or not. However, the woman run away, and the bandit released samurai. The samurai killed himself with the small sword.

At this point, the audiences can see the dead samurai lied in order not to damage his ego, and he tried to justified himself by telling that he committed suicide; instead of telling people that he was killed by bandit. The woman’s testimony was also fabricated in order to prevent her reputation being ruined. During 1950s era, women cannot have relationship with any other men; except their husbands. Moreover, their reputations can be stained when people find out they have an affair with other men. That was the reason why, she said bandit left her after raping her; but bandit said he successfully seduced her and she even accepts to be his woman. She lied to get sympathy from others and tried to get herself out of the situation. The most important evidence; dagger was lost. Even the bandit keeps claiming himself as a murder, he can only be charged with sexual assault, and he will not be convicted with murder due to lack of physical evidence.

According to the law, judges and juries should make fair decision with regarding all concrete evidences, witnesses, police investigation in order to bring the world justice and truth. Although, eyewitness testimony plays an important role in determining whether suspect actually commits crimes or not, witnesses’ testimonies are not particularly reliable. The reason is that witnesses can be lying, biased or corrupted in order to perpetuate an injustice. On the other hand, witnesses cannot fully remember the whole incidents they have eye witnessed; which is why most witnesses might misinterpret the incidences. The research shows that “the longer the gap between witnessing an incident and recalling the memories of the incident, the less accurate the recollection of that incident becomes. In other words, witness identification is more likely to be false after long retention period. Therefore, three methods; such as cross-examinations, physical evidences and comparing all witnesses’ testimonies can find the truths in most criminal cases. Witnessing a crime can happen unexpectedly and that memory can leave eyewitnesses feeling shocked and scared whenever they recall these memories.

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