If you are accused of a major felony like murder or aggravated assault, the police and prosecutors will try to amass an arsenal of ammunition to convict you. One of their favorite weapons is often eyewitness testimony. After all, if somebody witnessed events going down right in front of them, their testimony against you must be accurate, right?
Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, while that witness may believe wholeheartedly that their testimony is the truth, when it comes to eyewitness testimony, the truth is actually quite subjective. Read on to learn why eyewitness testimony is so unreliable.
Bystanders affected by stress after seeing violent crimes occur
If someone was unfortunate enough to see a person shot or stabbed, that is a major stress-triggering event. The violent confrontation and their own feelings of panic can create nightmarish images in their mind. As such, their body’s reaction to such stress can cause their own memories of the event to be suppressed, change or even manipulated during police questioning.
People bring their own biases to their testimony
They may not admit it even to themselves, but eyewitnesses’ biases against people of certain races or ethnicities — or even those with specific traits, e.g., red hair — that they relate to negative encounters in their own lives can accompany them into the courtroom. That can greatly affect the reliability of their testimony.
Police questioning contaminates memories
Many law-abiding citizens believe police officers are incapable or trickery, when in fact the very words they use to question eyewitnesses are loaded with trigger words that can affect their recitation of events they witnessed.
Build a stalwart defense to your charges
Serious charges demand an aggressive and robust defense to the charges you face. Learning more about the criminal law process can help you prepare for your trial.