Eye Witness Evidence is Unreliable!

Eye witness evidence is probably the most widely used evidence in State and Federal Courts. In the past it has also been considered the most reliable evidence. After all, why would someone lie about a crime? Is this the right view of eye witness evidence or not? This question has been answered in the negative by two sources. In the past several years over 200 people have been released from prison based on DNA evidence. In many of these cases there was eye witness evidence against the accused. Subsequently, DNA proved beyond any doubt that the person charged and convicted did not commit the crime. In Mississippi I personally know of at least three (3) cases where innocent people stayed in prison, one on death row, for a crime they did not commit. In two of the cases the person who actually committed the crime was later caught. Of course, that is very little consolation to a man who spends 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

There has been a large amount of research conducted in the area of mistaken identity. I am not going to try and list all the research. You can probably find much of it by using Google. The bottom line is that eye witness identification is extremely unreliable and can be adversely affected by both individual characteristics, racial issues, and environmental factors. In the past poorly conducted lineup have been responsible for some of the wrongful convictions. Social scientists, progressive law enforcement, and civil rights groups have made many recommendations to help prevent wrongful convictions due to faulty eye witness identification.

The Associated Press had an article today stating that the Dallas Police Department has instituted a program to use sequential blind photo lineups in order to help eliminate convictions of innocent people. It should be shocking to everyone when a innocent person is convicted and sent to prison. This had become a problem in Dallas. Since 2001 over 21 people had their convictions overturned and were found to be innocent. Some of those wrongfully convicted had spent over 20 years in prison. Other major police departments have also instituted sequential blind photo lineups.
This is something that all police departments need to do. It is not an impediment to catching offenders, it is an impediment to sending an innocent person to jail.

The Attorneys of Coxwell & Associates have over 70 years combined experience defending people charged with criminal offenses. We travel throughout Mississippi and can practice in other states.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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