What the Brain Saw: The Case of Trayvon Martin and the Need for Eyewitness Identification Reform

Valena Beety

Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Academy for Justice,
Arizona State University
Denver University Law Review, Vol. 90:2, 2012

The shooting of Trayvon Martin has caused many to question what exactly led to the death of an unarmed seventeen-year-old African-American teenager. This essay provides at least one answer: the brain in creating and preserving memories can distort one’s perception of events and people. In the courtroom, eyewitness testimony can be the most powerful and riveting information for a jury – and yet can contain that same inaccuracy of perception and memory. Bringing these two separate but connected insights together, this essay examines the role of memory and perception in the death of Trayvon Martin, along with eyewitness identification in criminal cases, ultimately calling for broad reform in our criminal justice system.