What we have learned about eyewitness testimony

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2018 | criminal defense

People often consider eyewitness testimony to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence in a court case. If a third party comes forward and identifies the suspect in the case, it carries a lot of weight with the jury.

However, we have learned over the years that this can be a serious mistake. Eyewitnesses are not nearly as trustworthy as previously assumed. This is not always because they are trying to alter the outcome of the case; they just make mistakes.

Interestingly, researchers have known about some of the issues for a long time. Studies done back in the 1960s suggested that eyewitness testimony was unreliable. For the most part, though, these did not gain much traction. Courts did not take the research as seriously as they should have.

When DNA evidence was introduced, that changed things significantly because we had a scientific process that could shed light on these cases. It often contradicted what eyewitnesses said. Courts began using this DNA evidence to overturn cases. In some instances, those who were exonerated had been convicted decades before. In other situations, DNA evidence helped keep wrongful convictions from happening in the first place.

All in all, we have absolutely learned that eyewitness testimony is not the most reliable evidence during a court case. People make errors. They make mistakes. They get things wrong.

If you are facing charges, you need to know about all of your defense options. This is especially true if you believe that mistakes made during the case could put you behind bars when you did not do anything wrong.