Challenging Eyewitness Testimony in Court
Have you been placed at the scene of a crime by eyewitness testimony? If so, it can be extremely frustrating to have a complete stranger make an accusation that is completely untrue! What could possibly motivate someone to lie about your presence at the scene? The truth is, although eyewitnesses may be sincere in their belief that they have correctly identified a suspect, they are wrong more often than you might realize. A skilled criminal attorney can mitigate the damage an eyewitness account might do.
Concerns About Eyewitnesses
Serious concerns have been expressed about the use of eyewitness testimony for decades. Social scientists stress that human memory is extremely acquiescent, and visual perceptions can be very fickle, as they are subject to a number of factors, including:
- The brain’s perception of the world at a particular moment;
- The emotions of the subject;
- Hormones flowing through the subject, such as adrenaline;
- The grouping of objects based on proximity and similarities;
- Binocular cues;
- Darkness and light;
- Pictorial depth cues related to depth and/or motion.
Back in the 1960s although there was some trepidation regarding the use of eyewitness testimony, courts generally relied on it to some degree anyway. But then DNA testing became a tool used to exonerate previously convicted individuals who’d been wrongly judged to be guilty, largely based on eyewitness accounts. It suddenly became abundantly clear that the testimony of eyewitnesses was often fallible, and people had spent years behind bars based on mistakes. The problem has been studied extensively, and recommendations have been made regarding the psychological factors influencing testimony, including the practices of law enforcement officers that may wittingly or unwittingly impact a person’s memory. In particular, reforms related to lineups include:
- Limiting the number of suspects per procedure to one;
- Selection of fillers with appropriate guidelines;
- Providing a sequential lineup rather than a lineup with multiple individuals at once;
- Providing clear, impartial instructions to witnesses;
- Avoiding inadvertent contamination of the lineup by conducting a double blind procedure; meaning the officer administering the test is unaware of the identity of the suspect;
- Avoiding the use of show-ups, where witnesses are shown a picture of a suspect that was picked up in the area shortly after the incident;
- Recording witness statements of confidence immediately after the lineup.
If an eyewitness has identified you, your attorney will critically examine all aspects of the lineup. The failure to follow best practices can seriously limit the credibility of a witness, regardless of how certain or earnest that witness may be.
Contact Us Today for Help
The experienced criminal law team at the Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A. understands how stressful it can be to be identified by an eyewitness. Nonetheless, we will work rigorously to assuage their testimony, and provide you with the fair & vigorous defense you deserve. Contact us today in Kissimmee for a confidential consultation about your situation.