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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reasons why Eyewitness Testimony is the Least Reliable Form of Evidence

            Looking for arguments to prove that the eyewitness testimony is unreliable?

            There is a consensus that eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence in the case.  However, in actual cases, the reality is that juries have the tendency to believe the testimony of an eyewitness to a case.  They have the tendency to rely on what the eyewitnesses had seen and render a guilty verdict based on the eyewitness account.

            Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies, women’s gender and sexuality studies and director of Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale University, explains why the eyewitness testimony is the weakest form of evidence and least reliable.

1. The method of presenting the photograph before the witness may influence the witness in identifying the perpetrator of the crime.  A study made by the American Judicature Society found that the presentation of photos to the witness is a critical factor in identification.  She said that when a police officer presents all the photographs in front of the suspect there is a tendency to commit a mistake and identify the wrong person.  Fewer mistakes are made when the photographs are presented one by one instead of presenting them all at once.  

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2. The person presenting the photographs may also influence the witness in identifying the perpetrator of the crime.  It is suggested that the police officer who is not involved in the case should be the one to present the photographs to the witness.

3. Witnesses of a crime see the event not as a rational and calm spectator where they are relaxed and calm. Emotions play important role to the witness.  When you are a witness to the crime the tendency is to be shocked and feel nervous and hide to protect yourself.  It is not your goal to take a good look at the suspect’s face and memorize his face.

4. Witnesses who are under a lot of stress at the time of the event have the tendency to make a mistake in identifying the perpetrator of the crime.

5. The opportunity for the witness to see the suspect is also relevant. Was the sighting brief? Did the witness have a long look on the suspect? Was it daytime or nighttime? Was the suspect facing the witness or not? These are matters which can affect the eyewitness in identifying the person responsible for the crime.

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