Most people are familiar with the idea of eyewitness testimony, even if they’ve never been involved in a criminal case. They’re a common feature in novels, TV shows and movies. What’s true is that when a crime is committed in New Jersey, witnesses may volunteer or be asked to give statements. What’s less certain is the accuracy of the testimony.
The accuracy of eyewitness testimony has been questioned
One problem with eyewitness testimony is that people don’t always remember, or even see, events accurately. In the past, testimony has been admitted into court, when the eyewitness was 450 feet from the alleged perpetrator. Experiments show that at that distance, it’s difficult for even people with very good eyesight to discern facial features.
Another issue is age. When older people are called to testify, they express much more certainty than younger people. Additionally, eyesight typically deteriorates with time. Eyewitnesses between the ages of 60 and 80 perform much worse in controlled studies than people in their teens and 20s. Even if they believe themselves to be correct, their testimony may simply be flawed.
During a crime, people may not pay much attention to the person committing it. They may zero in on a weapon that’s involved. Or they may avoid looking at the perpetrator, because they want to make it through safely. They want that person to think they won’t be able to identify for them. Up to 78% of wrongful convictions uncovered by the Innocence Project involve eyewitness testimony.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged due to faulty eyewitness identifications, it’s important to find a good lawyer. An attorney experienced in criminal law may understand the problems around eyewitness testimony and help show why it is inaccurate.