Challenging Eyewitness Identifications in Criminal Cases

Even though there are many other types of evidence that can prove or disprove a crime, police officers and prosecutors still heavily rely on eyewitness testimony to prove that a defendant committed a crime. This can be problematic, however, as eyewitness identifications are routinely unreliable and can identify the completely wrong person as the offender. It is essential to have a highly skilled criminal defense attorney handling your case, especially if the case involves eyewitness identification.

The Innocence Project claims that about 70 percent of convictions they have had overturned were largely based on incorrect eyewitness identification. Police identifications can take place in different ways, including:

  • Show-ups, in which a witness is shown a suspect shortly after a crime occurs – usually at the scene of a crime or where the suspect was apprehended. Often, the suspect is in handcuffs or another apparently incriminating position, which can lead a crime victim or eyewitness to assume the suspect is the defendant.
  • Photo lineups, in which a witness views an array of photos and is asked to select the one they recognize as the offender. Police often know who the suspect is, however, and can unintentionally prompt a witness to make a certain identification.
  • In-person lineups, in which a witness is brought to a police station to view a line of individuals in person. People in lineups are supposed to all be of similar appearance and build so as not to be too suggestive. However, police often grab whoever they can find and so a specific suspect may stand out whether or not the witness truly recognizes them.

When a lineup is overly suggestive, it can cause an eyewitness to identify someone when their memory is not so clear. There are many reasons why an eyewitness may not accurately remember a person’s appearance, including:

  • Poor lighting
  • The trauma of the situation
  • They were focused on a weapon and not the person’s face
  • They are of a different race
  • They were intoxicated

It is necessary to have a defense lawyer who knows how to challenge eyewitness identifications in court, as such identifications can be highly persuasive to a jury. However, it is not usually a good idea to simply attack the victim of a crime on the witness stand and say they are wrong. Instead, your attorney should have tactics and strategies to question an identification while not offending the jury members.

Discuss Your Criminal Case With an Experienced West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer

Eyewitness identifications are commonly inaccurate due to overly suggestive methods by police. Without the right representation, such an identification can lead to a wrongful conviction and serious penalties. At the Skinner Law Firm, we represent clients facing a wide variety of criminal charges and know how to develop aggressive and successful defense strategies. If you get arrested, it is wise to seek representation as soon as possible so we can begin protecting your rights and investigating the circumstances of your case. Please call us at 610-436-1410 or contact us online to learn about how we can help you.

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