Mark D. White
I haev a new post at Psychology Today reviewing a fantastic new book chapter titled "Tunnel Vision" by University of Wisconsin Law School professor Keith A. Findley, also the co-director of the Wisconsin innocence Project and president of the Innocence Network. The chapter is forthcoming in the book, Conviction of the Innocent: Lessons from Psychological Research (edited by B. Cutler; APA Press), and is based on an earlier and more detailed article in the Wisconsin Law Review titled "The Multiple Dimensions of Tunnel Vision in Criminal Cases" written with his UW colleague Michael S. Scott.
In the paper and chapter, Findley (with and without Scott) details the cognitive biases inherent in the decisions at every level of the criminal justice system, from apprehension and investigation to prosecution, sentencing, and parole. They provide examples of innocent persons wrongly convicted because (they argue) once they became the focus of their respective investigations, the various parties involved in the prosecution were subject to confirmation bias (which led them to interpret new evidence in such a way as to confirm their beliefs regarding the suspect's guilt) and hindsight bias (in which new evidence, selectively interpreted, makes their original suspicions seem inevitable).
To combat these biases, they recommend increased transparency in the system as well as institutional reforms (to change incentives that reinforce these biases, such as rewarding prosecutors for conviction rates). In the blog post, I discuss the difficulty with these institutional reforms, given the information and incentive problems with motivating actions based on "justice." My suggestion is to argue that defense counsel needs to take a more forceful role in bringing these biases to light, so their distortionary effect on the prosecution's case can be (to some extent) negated.
All in all, these are excellent and important pieces by Findley and Scott, and I hope they are widely read and appreciated.