The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony
An eyewitness is someone who was present at the scene of a crime who gives testimony about what occurred. They are sworn to tell the truth and generally have credibility with the jury. The problem is that eyewitnesses don’t always get it right. An experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney may have grounds to challenge an identification made by an eyewitness.
What Factors Affect Witness Reliability?
Identification by an eyewitness is considered powerful evidence in the prosecution’s case. However, although they are present at the scene of the crime, eyewitnesses are not always reliable. A number of factors can lead to errors in identification and wrongful convictions, including:
- Anxiety or stress at the time the crime occurred: Individuals in high-stress or traumatic situations may have diminished ability to accurately observe and later recall events.
- Focus on a weapon rather than the identity of the perpetrator: People threatened by a weapon will often focus on the weapon instead of the person holding it. After the incident, they may recall the weapon in detail, but not the perpetrator.
- Inability of human memory to record like a video camera: Eyewitnesses to a crime are often later unable to recall important details, such as a complete physical description of the perpetrator, including hair color, height, weight, and age.
- Suggestive procedures used by the police or the prosecution for eyewitness identification of suspects: Investigators can present suspects to witnesses in ways that are suggestive and lead to misidentification. An officer who knows the identity of the suspect may inadvertently provide subtle clues to an eyewitness.
- Cross-racial identification problems: It is not uncommon for a witness to have difficulty identifying facial characteristics in other races. Cross-racial identifications can be inaccurate because of own-race bias.
What Are the Grounds for Challenging Eyewitness Testimony?
Your attorney can work to have eyewitness testimony excluded from the trial if the reliability of the identification or the procedure with which it was obtained is in question. This could mean the end of the case in some trials. Grounds for challenging eyewitness identification may include:
- Witness bias against the defendant
- Factors that could affect the eyewitness’ memory of the incident, such as the stress the witness was under or the amount of time that had passed since the incident before the identification was made
- Factors that could have affected the witness’ visibility of the incident, such as vision impairment, poor lighting, obstacles blocking the view, or a hood, hat, or other item of clothing concealing the face
- Distance between the perpetrator and the eyewitness
- Failure of police to follow proper procedures in conducting a lineup or photo array – for example, if the officer conducting a photo array made suggestions to the witness or the other possible suspects in a lineup clearly did not resemble the actual suspect
Why Is It Important to Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you are facing charges based on eyewitness testimony, it is essential to find a skilled criminal defense attorney to manage your case. Eyewitness identification has been found to be unreliable in many cases. At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., our Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer can help protect you against false identification that could lead to wrongful conviction.
Our firm has a proven track record and experienced trial lawyers. We can build a strong defense against the charges you are facing. Founding Attorney Timothy Bussey has been voted Top Attorney in Colorado Springs by Colorado Springs Style Magazine for nine years in a row. Contact us today at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free consultation if you have been misidentified by an eyewitness and accused of a crime.