Dedicated Texas Criminal Defender

The reliability of an eyewitness is a myth

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2022 | Criminal defense

People often trust eyewitnesses in criminal trials. Say you’ve been accused of assault and you claim that you weren’t even there. The prosecution produces a witness who claims that they saw you at the scene and that you were the one who committed the assault.

In a case like this, if a jury is involved, they’re probably going to assume that you are lying and that the witness is telling the truth. After all, you have a reason to lie since you’re trying to get out of the charges, but the jury can’t see any reason why the witness would lie. This makes them seem trustworthy and reliable.

But that’s all a myth.

Witnesses often get it wrong

The problem with eyewitness testimony is that it’s just inaccurate so often, and it can severely sway a court case to an inaccurate result. This problem was largely discovered after DNA evidence began to be used in criminal trials. This wasn’t always available, not because it didn’t exist but simply because the technology didn’t facilitate the use of this evidence. After it could be used, then it could give definitive answers in some cases, showing who was really involved.

In more than 70% of these cases, according to some sources, people who had already been convicted and had those convictions overturned due to DNA evidence had faced their initial conviction because of eyewitness testimony. In other words, in the vast majority of these inaccurate results, eyewitness testimony was to blame and it was proven to be wrong by DNA after the fact.

Considering your defense options

Now that you can see how often witnesses get it wrong, even when they may honestly believe that they’re telling the truth, it shows you why it’s so important to understand your criminal defense options during a trial. You never know what is going to sway a jury, you never know how accurate that’s going to be and you must explore all of your options to make sure that justice is actually served.