In a criminal case, the prosecution may claim they have an eyewitness who can tell the jury what really happened. This person will take the stand, swear to tell the truth and then relate what they saw at the scene of the crime.
They may sound convincing. They may seem like they’re telling the truth. They may not have any overt reason to lie. But can jurors actually trust them to be reliable? Maybe not.
Since the rise of DNA evidence, hundreds of cases have been overturned. DNA can prove things that simply could not be proven prior to the invention of the technology. The DNA itself always existed, of course, but technology allowing us to link it directly to a specific person did not. Now that we can, people who were wrongfully convicted are being released when the DNA shows that they did not commit the crime in question.
In almost seven out of 10 of these cases, the reason for the initial conviction was eyewitness testimony. This shows that eyewitnesses are not trustworthy and often give inaccurate accounts of what took place.
This doesn’t mean that witnesses are doing this on purpose. Surely, many of them are making honest mistakes and they don’t even know that they’re wrong. But that does not change the fact that they are often wrong and they put innocent people behind bars. It’s become a major problem in the justice system.
If you have been accused of criminal activity, you may be worried that an inaccurate witness will lead to your conviction. Be sure you know about all of the defense options you have to prevent this.