I will be starting a mini series of the witnesses to Mr. Gricar’s activities from April 15 through April 18, 2005. It will be divided into four parts, those witnesses from 4/15/05 in Lewisburg, the “Fenton Sighting,” those witnesses from 4/16/05 in Lewisburg, those witnesses in Wilkes-Barre on 4/18/05. I want to talk about the witness sighting generally in this entry.
I mean no disrespect to any witness when saying this, but I do not believe that all the witnesses are 100% right. Eyewitness testimony is well known for not being exact. Some people get the details wrong; some people can get everything wrong.
Never miss a local story.
A fellow blogger, Slamdunk (and he is a he) posted a link to an article by Professor Michael C. Dorf, of Cornell, noting that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate. Professor Dorf stated in the article: At the same time, numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings are not very good at identifying people they saw only once for a relatively short period of time. The studies reveal error rates of as high as fifty percent — a frightening statistic given that many convictions may be based largely or solely on such testimony [Emphasis added].
In short, if one person says that he saw Ray Gricar standing on the corner on Front and Iowa Streets in Butte, Montana on the morning of September 1, 2005, I'll give that less weight than I would a report of five people who saw him standing at the same corner on July 1, 2005. (So far as I know, no one saw him in Butte at any point, but I like saying Butte, Montana.)
The second point is that this witness list should be considered a work in progress. I heard about a new witness, that I had never ever heard about, in private conversations, in July of 2008. No, the police have not released everything; some of that is understandable. More information may trickle out.
The third point, I give somewhat more weight to trained observers, usually police officers. Someone who is or was a police officer is more likely to notice things, because of their training. There are not infallible, but they less likely to be in that “as high as fifty percent” category.
Fourth, when it comes to counting witnesses, I am very conservative. If I have a report of “multiple witnesses,” I will treat it as two. If it is a report of “two or three” witnesses, I’ll treat it as two. You can pretty much bet that there are more than I’m counting.
Fifth, while there is some physical evidence backing up some of the witnesses, I'm going to try to focus on just what they saw.