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Questions remain about eyewitness reliability

| Aug 2, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Jurors in Texas criminal cases tend to believe identifications made by eyewitnesses, especially if the witness is very confident about the identification. However, research indicates that there are still several questions about and potential problems with eyewitness accounts. Witnesses are often asked to identify the perpetrator of a crime by picking him or her out of a live lineup or out of a photo array. The outcome of the identification process is often introduced by the prosecution in a subsequent criminal trial.

Many wrongful convictions that included eyewitness identifications have been highlighted by the efforts of the Innocence Project, and researchers have known for some time that eyewitnesses are not as reliable as people tend to think they are. Research has been conducted on several different possible indicators of accuracy, including how quickly the witness picks out the party and the witness’s pattern of eye movement when looking at the lineup. Witness confidence, though, has drawn the most attention.

Some researchers have claimed that witness identifications made with very high confidence are very likely to be accurate, but they base their conclusions on factors that may not be present in all lineups. For example, to have a pristine lineup, it should be conducted by someone who does not know who the suspect is, the suspect shouldn’t stand out in any way from others in the lineup and confidence should be measured immediately following the identification. These factors are not present in all lineups.

An attorney might be able to help someone in Texas who has been charged with a crime. A criminal defense attorney might look for weaknesses in the prosecution case. This may involve challenging eyewitness testimony or uncovering new evidence.