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Can you trust an eyewitness?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2023 | Criminal Defense

You might think an eyewitness to a crime would have no reason to lie. They didn’t commit the crime. They didn’t even know it was going to occur. They just happened to be in the area when that activity was carried out. It was a fluke, but they came forward with their story and talked to the authorities. They seem like they’re being honest.

This is certainly the mindset that many juries have, and it’s part of the reason that they often trust eyewitnesses. They believe that people are giving authentic accounts and will consider this a substantial and convincing type of evidence in court. But should the jury trust an eyewitness? That is far less clear.

Overturned convictions

What has happened in recent decades, since the development of DNA testing in the 1990s, is that convictions have been overturned. DNA can prove that the conclusion reached by the judge and the jury was inaccurate. This has happened hundreds of times already, and it suggests that there are even more cases where people are innocent but the evidence to show that innocence simply hasn’t been recovered.

The vast majority of these wrongful convictions were based on eyewitness testimony. It played a role in roughly 73% of the cases. This evidence certainly seems to suggest that eyewitnesses are frequently wrong – or lying — and may have a drastic negative impact on justice being served. Someone could serve years in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, all based on that testimony.

This is just one of the reasons why it is so important to understand all of your defense options if you’re facing serious charges. It’s wise to have experienced legal guidance.