Over 10,000 Criminal Cases Handled in the Denver Area

How eyewitnesses sometimes get it wrong

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Two people can witness the same event and see it in two different ways. Nevertheless, eyewitness accounts still are a cornerstone of evidence used in litigation. Now, the courts realization that eyewitness testimony is not as ironclad as once thought. DNA evidence has now been used in overturning 70% of 349 wrongful convictions in recent years, many of which involved eyewitness testimony.

Memory is malleable

There is also the fact that the details of a person’s memories can change over time. This is what psychologists call a malleability of memory. For example, a person may falsely recall the details of an event as time passes, perhaps talking themselves into a new story as they continually repeat it like a game telephone with themself. According psychologists, this is due to:

  • Suggestion by others
  • The passage of time
  • Erroneous information or interpretation of information
  • The impact of drugs or alcohol

These reasons involve the general nature of how the human mind works, or it could be someone (an officer, prosecutor, fellow witness) attempting to influence those memories.

Scientific support is key

It’s established that anyone is susceptible to influence, but science is more cut and dried. While improper procedure can still taint evidence, DNA, fingerprints, and blood samples can provide important and irrefutable details to a story and case.

The bottom line

Wrongful convictions are no help to society and can actually erode confidence in law enforcement and our legal system. So, it is essential to work with a criminal defense attorney who understands the strength and weaknesses or eyewitness testimony as well as science-based evidence. They can help shine a light on the real and imagined, keeping the innocent from being wrongfully convicted.