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How credible is eyewitness testimony?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2022 | Violent Crimes

When you face a criminal charge in Alabama, you may wonder how much the outcome of your case is going to depend on the statements made by eyewitnesses who claim to have seen you commit the act. While many people believe eyewitness accounts are highly credible, studies suggest that this is not, in fact, the case.

The Innocence Project reports that mistaken eyewitness identifications are now the primary contributing factor to wrongful convictions in America.

Why eyewitness accounts are often inaccurate

There are several reasons eyewitness accounts are not as reliable as many people think. Sometimes, the party administering the lineup may provide unintentional clues to who a suspect is. In other instances, the lineup administrator may neglect to ask the witness how confident he or she is in the identification. After the identification takes place, the administrator may then provide unintentional cues to the witness if he or she selected the right party.  In doing so, the lineup administrator may give the witness more confidence than he or she initially had.

How often eyewitness accounts are inaccurate

A study of 375 convictions overturned as a result of post-conviction DNA evidence showed how common eyewitness misidentification is. The study revealed that eyewitness misidentifications helped convict 69% of those who had their convictions overturned. A wrongful conviction has the potential to upend your entire life. However, it also hinders investigations by diverting authorities’ attention away from identifying a true perpetrator.

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that eyewitness identifications are prone to error. However, many still find eyewitness identifications to be some of the most convincing and compelling forms of evidence in a criminal case.