Eyewitness testimony has always played a major role in criminal cases, both within the United States and long before the country was formed. Many people consider it one of the fundamental elements of a case, a type of evidence that can settle the dispute seemingly on its own.
However, the reality is that eyewitnesses are not reliable and are consistently wrong. Testimonies should be considered very carefully, as even an eye witness who sounds confident and who honestly believes what they are saying is true can be concerningly inaccurate with the account they provide.
One reason this happens is that human memory is malleable and subject to change. It doesn’t feel that way — which is why an incorrect witness can also seem so confident — but what people remember is not always what happened. This doesn’t mean they’re not consulting their memory. They are. It’s just the memory they have is wrong.
On top of that, there are plenty of visual perception issues that call accounts into question. A witness says they saw someone running from the scene of the crime, but they were 100 yards away and it was rainy and dark. How much could they really see? Yes, they saw someone, but is that enough to make an accurate identification of that person?
Your defense options
If you’re facing charges, there is a good chance that testimony from an eye witness may impact your case. Not only do you need to know why they may be wrong, but you also need to know what legal defense options you have.