People put a great deal of faith in things they see for themselves. But in Oklahoma and across the country, it’s become increasingly clear that eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Once the cornerstone of a trial and seen as incredibly valuable, eyewitness testimony is coming under ever more scrutiny.
Looking at the numbers
The Innocence Project takes a second look at cases in which someone has been convicted of murder. In almost 80% of the convictions it has helped overturn, eyewitness testimony was key in getting the convictions. Sometimes, people are overconfident about what they’ve seen. Even at just 10 feet away, you may not be able to see detailed facial features. At distances of 200 or 500 feet, your ability becomes even worse.
Age can also play a role in the quality of eyewitness identification. As people get older, their eyesight tends to worsen. University studies show that the participants between 60 and 80 years of age were particularly inaccurate. Young children can also be unreliable eyewitnesses as they may not have understood what they saw or misremembered it. Incorrect eyewitness testimony can be a real problem for criminal defense teams.
Sometimes, the way police conduct lineups can also influence identifications. Recent innovations in photo lineups seek to mitigate the problem of incorrect identifications. For example, people are now often shown one photo at a time instead of multiples at once. Officers should also make sure witnesses know the suspect may not appear in the lineup. This prevents witnesses from settling on someone who looks the most similar.
If you or a loved one have been charged or convicted due to eyewitness testimony, you should speak to an attorney. An experienced lawyer may be able to help you uncover any problems with the eyewitness testimony and craft a winning criminal defense strategy.