Different types of evidence carry different weight with judges and juries in a Virginia criminal case. Many judges and juries consider eyewitness testimony or eyewitness identifications to be some of the most convincing types of evidence that may come into play during a trial, but many eyewitness accounts and identifications wind up being inaccurate.
According to Psychology Today, a growing number of wrongful convictions taking place across the United States are shining a spotlight on common issues surrounding eyewitness identifications and the law enforcement lineups that often lead to them.
How often eyewitness misidentifications are wrong
Almost 360 imprisoned individuals got out of prison after DNA evidence showed that they were not the true perpetrators of the acts for which they went to prison. Research shows that eyewitness misidentifications had a hand in putting 70% of those wrongly imprisoned individuals behind bars.
Why eyewitness identifications are often wrong
There are several reasons eyewitness accounts and identifications often lack accuracy. First, an individual’s memories are malleable and prone to distortion when time passes. Many different factors also impact memories, among them someone’s degree of intoxication when witnessing an act and how much time has passed since a witness saw something take place.
Sometimes, law enforcement agents also contribute to inaccurate eyewitness identifications my giving a witness clues about a suspect’s identity. Many law enforcement agents also fail to determine how confident an eyewitness is in his or her recollections or neglect to tell a witness that a suspect may or may not be present for a lineup. Both of these actions may also raise the chance of a witness making a false identification.
Wrongful convictions based on faulty eyewitness accounts do more than hurt those wrongfully accused. They, may, too, result in the actual perpetrator of a criminal act going free.