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Is eyewitness testimony really trustworthy?

| Apr 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

New Jersey and other states have been relying on eyewitness testimony since the dawn of the justice system. Due to its overly used nature in many popular films where the eyewitness dramatically points out the defendant and accuses them of the crime, people have been persuaded to believe that eyewitness testimony is accurate. In reality, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

DNA testing has proven that there’s an accuracy problem

Eyewitness testimony can be one of the worst problems for a criminal defense lawyer. Judges and jurors tend to put a lot of weight on what eyewitnesses say. This has resulted in the imprisonment of many innocent individuals over the years. The Innocence Project set out to test the accuracy of eyewitness testimony by reviewing DNA evidence from various cases that were heard before DNA testing was available.

The Innocence Project had more than 350 people exonerated after DNA testing proved their innocence. Out of those people, 71 percent of them were wrongfully convicted due to eyewitness testimony. That is just a portion of the innocent people that eyewitness testimony wrongfully accused.

Human memory isn’t objective

Many of us have a tendency to believe that our memory is objective. This means that it can specifically recall an unbiased account of an event that happened. In reality, it’s not objective. Each person’s memory is dependent on their preferences, needs and personalities. For example, a gun enthusiast may be able to explain the exact model of gun that was used in the robbery because they focused on it. However, another witness may not be able to describe the gun at all because they were focused on looking at the robber’s face.

Eyewitness testimony isn’t always going to be a dead accurate form of evidence. Each person’s memory isn’t objective, and they don’t always focus on the same things as others. It’s important for people to realize that eyewitness testimony may not always be an accurate account of what happened.