Identifying Inaccuracies In Eyewitness Identification And Testimony

Eyewitness identification and testimony have been found to be unreliable and inaccurate. However, many states still use it as evidence in court.

Not everyone sitting behind bars in the United States is guilty of committing a crime. A number of people in Texas and across the country have been falsely incriminated of a crime due to flaws in the judicial system. According to the Innocence Project, 330 people have been exonerated of their prison sentences after DNA forensic testing proved that they were innocent. In at least 70 percent of those cases, eyewitness misidentification was involved. Although numerous studies show that eyewitness testimony and identification is inherently unreliable, it is still used as evidence in criminal court cases.

identification errors

According to a Frontline News story, a study compared a jury's response to two nearly identical court cases. In the first case, a robbery-murder crime was presented to the jury using strictly circumstantial evidence. There was no eyewitness testimony used. During the second case, the exact same evidence was presented to the jury. In addition to the evidence, however, a single eyewitness identified the defendant as the perpetrator. Surprisingly, 72 percent of the panel found the defendant guilty when an eyewitness was used, as opposed to 18 percent in the first case.

Texas contains approximately 54 of the 330 people who have been declared innocent of the crime that they were accused of committing. One of those wrongfully convicted men spent 31 years in prison before he was finally released. The man was a victim of eyewitness misidentification when his picture was erroneously chosen from a photo lineup by one of the victims. The other victim did not choose the man's picture. Despite a series of other flawed procedures that were used during the case, the man was found guilty and sentenced to 75 years in prison.

factors that influence identification accuracy

The American Bar Association reported that there are several factors that can result in a wrongful eyewitness identification. These include:

  • Lineup administrators may give physical and/or verbal cues indicating which person the witness should choose from the lineup.
  • The amount of lighting present when the crime occurred, as well as how far the witness was standing from the perpetrator.
  • Whether a weapon was used or the perpetrator was wearing a disguise.
  • The length of time that has passed from when the crime occurred until the witness is asked to identify the suspect.
  • Whether the lineup was organized in a way where only one person matched the description of the perpetrator.

Studies also show that eyewitness identifications are less accurate if the perpetrator is a different race than the witness.

proving your innocence

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, your future is on the line. A criminal conviction can ruin your career, affect your family and put you behind bars. People who face criminal charges may want to contact a defense attorney in Texas. A criminal lawyer may be able to answer your questions regarding the legal process and may help you formulate a strong defense.