Forward-Thinking. Bold. Committed.

Mistaken identifications a big factor in wrongful convictions

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2023 | Criminal Defense

When you face a Pennsylvania criminal charge, many factors impact the strength of the case against you. If there are eyewitnesses planning to testify against you, their testimony may have a big impact on the final outcome of your case. This is because many judges and juries believe eyewitness testimony to be among the most credible and convincing types of evidence out there – even if this is not true.

According to the Innocence Project, eyewitnesses are wrong far more often than you might like to think. In fact, inaccurate eyewitness accounts have become so common that they are now the top cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.

How often inaccurate eyewitness identifications occur

Many people who have their convictions overturned experience this after DNA evidence proves someone else must have committed the offense in question. In fact, of the more than 375 people who had their convictions overturned after post-DNA evidence cleared them, 69% received their convictions in the first place because an eyewitness incorrectly identified them.

Why inaccurate eyewitness identifications occur

Inaccurate eyewitness accounts happen for many reasons. Memories are not always accurate representations of events that transpired. They are also prone to distortion over time. Other problems with eyewitness accounts arise when law enforcement agencies conducting police lineups make errors or omissions. For example, lineup administrators should tell witnesses that the suspect may or may not be present in a lineup to improve accuracy, but this does not always occur.

Lineup administrators should also ask witnesses how confident they are in their identifications following police lineups. However, many fail to do this, too.