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Risks of faulty eyewitness testimony

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Eyewitness testimony often plays a role in Florida court cases. You might think an eyewitness account is one of the most powerful forms of evidence. However, the truth is eyewitnesses aren’t always accurate. And faulty eyewitness accounts can result in wrongful convictions.

When there’s doubt about accuracy, the criminal defense might challenge eyewitness identification. Here are some things that can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony:

The eyewitness was under stress or anxiety during the crime

People in high-stress or frightful situations often find it difficult to focus. They may not have the ability to observe what’s happening accurately. And as a result, they may also have difficulty correctly remembering events.

The eyewitness was looking at the weapon

When people are threatened with a weapon, they often focus on the weapon. The weapon is more of a concern than the person who has it. That’s why some eyewitnesses can vividly recall a weapon but recall little about the perpetrator.

Human memory has flaws

Even under normal circumstances, human memory isn’t always reliable. The human mind isn’t a video camera that perfectly captures everything. Several people can see the same person, but when describing the person they all describe someone differently. The same applies to eyewitness testimony and how faulty memory can affect a case.

Problems with cross-racial identification

Some people find it difficult to identify facial features in other racial groups. Research shows it’s easier for most people to recognize faces in their own racial group. But racial bias can also play a role.

Questioning eyewitness testimony

Eyewitness testimony often has flaws. And there have been wrongful convictions because of it. However, eyewitness testimony may be excluded from a trial if its accuracy is disputed.