Can you tell a lie from looking at a face? asked The Globe and Mail June 15:
It’s a hotly debated question in the legal community, as the courts decide whether a Toronto sexual assault complainant will be allowed to wear a niqab while testifying.
Richard Litkowski, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, also practises criminal law. “It’s dangerous to rely on demeanour alone,” he says, especially if there are cultural differences involved. We tend to overestimate our ability to detect lies through facial cues, he says.
Litkowski cites a 2007 case from the Ontario Court of Appeal, in which “a conviction was overturned because the trial judge failed to take into account cultural differences that affect demeanour.” Namely, eye contact. The judge mistook a lack of eye contact for the passivity of the witness, who was born and raised in Sudan, where eye contact is perceived differently.
Instincts can be an occupational hazard of the legal profession and have led to wrongful convictions. “Most trial lawyers have faith in their ability to take note of physical cues they perceive as they give evidence,” Litkowski says.
The complete article is posted on the Globe's website.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.