You may have heard that eyewitnesses are often wrong in criminal cases. They tend to get a lot of support from the court and the jury tends to believe them, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right. When DNA evidence overturns cases, it is found that inaccurate eyewitness testimonies are often to blame. An eyewitness says they saw someone at the scene of the crime, for instance, only for DNA to prove it was definitely not them.
But why does this happen? Why do eyewitnesses who have good intentions and may even think they’re telling the truth get it wrong so often?
There are plenty of reasons. Fast, unexpected action is one. Things happen suddenly, the eyewitness was not expecting a crime to take place, and they miss crucial details as their mind struggles to keep up. They try to put the pieces back together later, but that doesn’t mean they can remember it all.
You also have an interesting effect where people tend to look at weapons during encounters with armed individuals. If someone walks into a bank with a shotgun, the witnesses stare at the shotgun for the entire encounter. Later, they may have forgotten what the suspect looked like, but they can describe that gun in great detail.
You also have to take into account issues like distance, poor lighting, vision problems experienced by the witnesses and much more. All of these variables can really change how much they actually see and remember.
If you have been accused of a crime and it’s being backed up by a witness who is incorrect in their recollections, make sure you understand your legal defense options.