Eyewitness testimony is no longer a gold standard

The American legal system offers few moments as dramatic as an eyewitness to a crime pointing his finger across a crowded courtroom at a defendant. The problem is that decades of studies show eyewitness testimony is right only about half the time — a reality that has prompted a small vanguard of police chiefs, courts and lawmakers to toughen laws governing the handling of eyewitnesses and their accounts of crimes.

Reform advocates say procedures long regarded as solid police work, from bringing a witness to a crime scene where he might see a suspect in handcuffs to the subtle encouragement of a detective during a police lineup, can fundamentally alter what someone believes they saw.

The reexamination of eyewitness testimony comes at a time when technology and other forensic analysis are being given greater weight. The U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to establish a national standard for eyewitness testimony when it handled a 2012 case from New Hampshire. The court instead delegated that responsibility to the states, which could choose to overhaul their laws or do nothing at all. Most chose the latter.

Over the last 30 years there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of studies by well respected psychologists across the country that have proved time and again that eyewitness identification is often flawed and can lead to tragic results. It’s terribly important to make sure that the process of identifying a perpetrator is done fairly.

You should contact our firm if you feel you have been a victim of mistaken identity and wrongly accused of criminal conduct.