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The huge problem with eyewitness misidentification

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense

DNA evidence has changed the way many people look at criminal convictions. There have now been hundreds of overturned convictions based on DNA that was found at the scene.

What this suggests is that there are many other people behind bars who may also be innocent. It’s just that the DNA evidence to exonerate them doesn’t exist or was never gathered by the authorities. But the fact that many people have had their convictions overturned shows that justice was not always served.

Witnesses get it wrong

In the majority of these cases, eyewitness testimony is a big reason for the initial – and inaccurate – conviction. 

Often, the problem is that eyewitnesses believe that their memory is perfect, like a video recording of what took place. But the truth is that memory is malleable. It can change when new information is introduced. It can also change through intense pressure, such as questioning by police officers.

But because the memory itself can change, the eyewitness still believes that it is accurate. They are not trying to give an inaccurate account and cause a false conviction. They truly believe – at least, in many cases – that they are telling the truth and that what they remember really happened. But because of the inherent limitations of human memory, these eyewitnesses are going to make mistakes and put people behind bars when they did not do anything wrong.

This is a major problem in the criminal justice system, and it certainly shows that you could be wrongfully convicted. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to have experienced legal guidance as you explore all of your criminal defense options.