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Why eyewitness testimony can be problematic

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

All criminal cases center around evidence. The prosecution relies on strong evidence to seek convictions, and the defense often relies on poking holes in the prosecution’s evidence to create reasonable doubt.

Evidence comes in numerous forms, but eyewitness testimony plays a role in many criminal cases. This involves a witness testifying to what they saw. While eyewitness testimony can be reliable, it is certainly not without faults. Here are a few reasons why eyewitness testimony can be problematic.

Confirmation bias

It is a misconception to view the memory as a tool that records events that can be replayed at a later date. People construct their own memories. There are several factors, including biases, that can skew the memory. For example, if a serious crime has been committed, then a witness will be determined to make sure someone pays for it. Their biases could lead them toward telling the police what they want to hear rather than what they actually saw. Stress, pressure to try and convict and other environmental factors and biases can all impact the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

The passage of time

It can take several months or even years for a criminal case to reach trial. This is when the eyewitness will be called to the stand to give their testimony. As mentioned, the memory is not a recording tool that can be accurately replayed at any point. Over time, the memory diminishes, and gaps can be filled by information such as news reports, that are not necessarily accurate to what the witness saw.

When facing criminal charges, you will be given the opportunity to challenge the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Having legal guidance behind you will help ensure that this is done effectively.