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How credible is eyewitness testimony?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2022 | Domestic Violence, Violent Crimes

Having a Texas criminal charge pending against you may have you feeling anxious already. You may feel even more uneasy if you learn there is an eyewitness planning to identify you as the guilty party. Many people believe that eyewitness testimony is one of the most convincing forms of evidence out there. Yet, research suggests that eyewitness accounts are not nearly as reliable as you might think.

According to the Innocence Project, mistaken eyewitness identifications are the source of many problems in the criminal justice system. First, they point law enforcement in the wrong direction, making it more difficult to apprehend those actually guilty of committing crimes. They also lead to obvious problems for the party misidentified as having committed an illegal act.

How often eyewitness accounts are inaccurate

Studies show that mistaken eyewitness identifications have become the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. More than 375 incarcerated individuals across the nation have had their convictions overturned as a result of DNA evidence. Almost 70% of those wrongful convictions involved witnesses misidentifying the parties they believed for responsible for the acts in question.

Why eyewitness accounts are often inaccurate

Eyewitness accounts rely on memory, and memories are malleable and susceptible to distortion as time passes. There are also numerous issues associated with law enforcement lineups. For example, sometimes, the parties conducting the lineup give a witness unintentional cues that make the witness more likely to pinpoint a particular individual. Other times, lineup administrators neglect to ask eyewitnesses how confident they are in their decisions.

A good deal hangs in the balance when you face a criminal charge. An eyewitness misidentification has the potential to mean the difference between going to jail or prison or returning to life as you know it.