Eyewitness testimonies are common in court proceedings. They can be helpful and sometimes necessary to provide the court with case details. Unfortunately, sometimes eyewitness accounts can hinder rather than help your case.
In the past, research has shown that eyewitness testimonies are often unreliable. In fact, scientists and psychologists have encouraged courts not to rely too heavily upon eyewitnesses. A person can seem confident when giving their account. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their version of events is accurate. Inaccurate eyewitness testimonies may create faulty evidence and can even lead to a wrongful conviction.
Distance makes a difference
The further an eyewitness is from the scene of an alleged crime, the more likely it is that they are unable to make out accurate details. Even people with good eyesight can mistake important information from afar. The greater the distance, the harder it is for humans to perceive things like facial features and other crucial identifiers.
Difficulties of memory reconstruction
Often, eyewitnesses don’t have enough time to fully process and retain what they think they’ve seen. This can make an eyewitness’s memory of what happened unreliable. When putting the pieces back together, they may remember events differently than how they actually happened. They might even remember something that didn’t occur at all. Also, other people’s comments, suggestions or perspectives about the case can influence memory and how an eyewitness reconstructs the incident.
Other influential factors
Many other factors can make an eyewitness testimony unreliable. Time-of-day factors like nighttime or bright sunlight can serve as an obstacle to an eyewitness account. Even weather conditions like snow, fog and rain might make a testimony less reliable. Some eyewitnesses may also carry racial or gender biases that will skew their accounts.
While eyewitnesses can play an important role in court cases, a testimony might not be reliable enough to definitively base court rulings on. Thankfully, procedures like DNA testing can help prevent wrongful convictions in today’s age. However, in the event that you are facing criminal charges, don’t let an unreliable eyewitness account dictate your future.