Eyewitnesses in a Bar


Many supposed eyewitnesses from the Rainbow Lounge have come forward within the media to allege viewing excessive force perpetrated by peace officers. Consider, however, the following:

  • Several pictures have been released by patrons who used camera phones inside of the Rainbow Lounge. They all show normal police behavior, including handcuffing one patron and speaking with another.

    Where's the brutality or excessive force?

    This picture has been described as individuals seeking refuge from the "raid" at the Rainbow Lounge. Smiles now equate fear.

  • After the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles, photos/video was released to the media within moments.

    Attention activists: this is what police brutality looks like.
  • Phones capable of recording pictures, video and audio are widely available and commonly used. It is a virtual certainty that such a device was in the pocket of many patrons at the Rainbow Lounge. But the only releases have shown appropriate, instead of excessive, force. If excessive force was used – and repeatedly, according to eyewitness testimony – why is zero documentation available?
Eyewitnesses are notoriously weak in supplying evidence. In fact, a majority of criminals who have been exonerated by DNA testing were placed in jail in the first place by eyewitness testimony. Eyewitnesses are known to speak with passion and emotion instead of relying upon factual occurrences. Not only is exaggeration a possibility, but it is also a common occurrence.

Levin and Cramer, in their publication "Problems and Materials on Trial Advocacy" say:

“Eyewitness testimony is, at best, evidence of what the witness believes to have occurred. It may or may not tell what actually happened. The familiar problems of perception, of gauging time, speed, height, weight, of accurate identification of persons accused of crime all contribute to making honest testimony something less than completely credible.”
Looking to a scientific perspective, rather than a legal one, ScienceBlogs reports:

"Neuroscience now knows that every time we remember a memory, that memory is "reconsolidated," slyly remade and reconfigured. The idea of reconsolidation should make us distrustful of our memories. They do not directly represent reality."
Patrons at the Rainbow Lounge may now distinctly believe that they witnessed egregious events. Unfortunately, it is more likely that they have just begun to believe in false memories. Have you ever heard the adage that if you say something enough times, it becomes true? There's a huge body of psychological research to support that.

The Stanford Journal of Legal Studies, through the writing of Laura Engelhardt, relates the following:
"Witnesses can distort their own memories without the help of examiners, police
officers or lawyers. Rarely do we tell a story or recount events without a
purpose. Every act of telling and retelling is tailored to a particular
listener. ... The act of telling a story adds another layer of distortion, which
in turn affects the underlying memory of the event. ... Once witnesses state
facts in a particular way or identify a particular person as the perpetrator,
they are unwilling or even unable—due to the reconstruction of their memory—to
reconsider their initial understanding."
One of the ways in which eyewitnesses are most often proven wrong is in matters of identification. The Visual Expert web site states:
Although jurors rely heavily on eyewitness identification, there is overwhelming evidence that eyewitness identification is highly fallible and that eyewitness confidence is a poor guide to accuracy.
In the case of the Rainbow Lounge, many supposed eyewitnesses have identified this picture as being Chad Gibson.

Are you absolutely sure that the picture is of Mr. Gibson? With as little of the patron as you can see from a grainy cell phone picture? Comparing the circumstances of the various arrests, this picture may actually be George Armstrong. Still believe in the absolute truth of eyewitness testimony?

The very best evidence that the eyewitness accounts provided by Rainbow Lounge patrons is seriously flawed lies in the fact that the same witnesses have given different accounts at different times, and that various witnesses have given accounts that contrast from one another greatly. Restoring Reason is preparing a detailed comparison and analysis of these accounts, which will be available soon.

Why, then, should you put stock in the police accounts of what happened at the Rainbow Lounge instead of the eyewitness accounts? Five simple reasons:
  • The police were involved in the bar check, not witnesses to the bar check. Involved actors have more reason to accurately relate circumstances because they went through them.
  • Despite finger pointing between the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and a purposeful distancing between the two agencies, their accounts of the bar check are the same.
  • Peace officers are trained to make observations with reason instead of emotion, whereas eyewitnesses typically react with emotion instead of watch dispassionately.
  • Peace officers are trained to look at both the surface of an occurrence and any underlying motivations.
  • Peace officers are trained to produce thorough documentation because of a possibility that it may one day be used in court.
And one final thought...

Before Chad was transported, peace officers tried to find his friend so that he wouldn't be alone in the ambulance, even enlisting the bouncer for help. Interestingly enough, however, Matt Meador (who has not been shy about speaking to the media) had already left, not bothering to check on his friend. In fact, although many claim to be friends of Chad now, not a single person approached Chad in the parking lot to check on him after his puking and falling episode, not a single person took a picture of him in the parking lot even though he was there for at least 20 minutes, and not a single person volunteered to go with him in the ambulance.

Sad. Chad was worth absolutely nothing to his so-called friends and fellow bar patrons until an opportunity for exploition presented itself. And if we *really* want to attach a victim tag to Chad...it can only be for that very exploitation. For shame.

Disclaimer: The information posted on this site has not been prepared or approved by any police agency, police association, or legal or law enforcement professional. It has been compiled through research of already available information and should not be relied upon as legal advice or as findings of an investigation.

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