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The setbacks of eyewitness testimony

On Behalf of | May 17, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Defense

Many historical accounts of major events in history relied on eyewitness testimony. However, criminal defense teams are not entirely confident in the reliability of firsthand stories. There are a number of weaknesses in the testimonies of eyewitnesses in Florida.

Not entirely accurate

Eyewitness testimony is based on the visions and memory of one person. A person with impaired vision is not a reliable witness if he or she had not been wearing corrective lenses. Witnesses who see things from very far distances are likely to mistake the person or object that they think they saw as something different. For instance, a witness who claims to see a man standing on a distant hill may have seen a small tree instead. Also, a suspect who wears heavy clothing, makeup or a different hairstyle at the time may confuse the witness and lead to a false identification.

Some eyewitnesses rely solely on memory to tell their story. For an event that occurred several years ago, the witness often remembers the most extreme, disturbing details but fails to remember every single detail. An effective strategy for criminal defense requires the use of fresh eyewitness testimony that is easy to recall and recite in great detail.

Unfavorable surroundings

Witnesses often see events that occur in obscure, unfavorable conditions. Harsh weather conditions, especially fog, rain and nighttime, make it difficult or impossible to discern specific details. They also struggle with clearly witnessing events that involve large crowds. For instance, identifying a shooter positively is not guaranteed if other people are standing nearby and obscuring the witness’s view.

Eyewitness testimony is the most common yet least reliable form of evidence in court. There are times when their stories border on hearsay and are dismissed as fictitious or unrealistic. The reliability of this testimony relies on the witness’s ability to see the event clearly and remember everything that happened.