The frightening truth about eyewitness accuracy

Think that eyewitnesses will give an accurate account of a criminal event? You know that the jury does, in most cases. They really believe that eyewitnesses can break a case wide open and provide important details as to what happened. 

The reasoning makes sense. Both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator may have a reason to lie about what happened. An eyewitness, in the jury’s mind, does not. They just saw what happened. They’re trustworthy. Whatever they say is probably an accurate account. 

The problem is that it doesn’t work that way. Take a look at recent cases overturned by DNA evidence. These are cases where the DNA is the final word, and it can show that someone was innocent despite appearing to be guilty at the time. People sometimes get released from jail because the DNA shows they were innocent all along. 

In these cases, you can then go back and see how often an eyewitness gave a key testimony that led to a conviction. What you’ll find is that it happens in about three out of every four instances. It is very common for eyewitnesses to be wrong and, worse yet, they have often contributed heavily to putting innocent people in jail. 

That’s not to say that they’re always wrong, of course, but just to demonstrate that people’s memories are not nearly as good as they think they are. These witnesses do make mistakes, and the ramifications are something you can’t ignore. 

As you move closer to your trial or court date, it is very important that you know about all of the defense options at your disposal