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Can an Eyewitness Be Wrong?

In today’s blog, we’ll be going over information about eyewitnesses in trial cases. As you may know, when there’s an eyewitness in a case, they tend to be the key component to whether someone is guilty or not. Whether you know this from personal experience or you have watched a lot of court television, an eyewitness can be the deciding factor on whether it can be proven that someone committed a crime. However, there are some cases where an eyewitness is wrong about what they saw.

According to the Innocence Project, an organization that explores DNA testing to figure out if a crime was wrongly committed, there have been 73 percent of the reported 239 convictions were overturned because of DNA testing when the key to the case was eyewitness testimony. One-third of these cases were also overturned even though there were two or more eyewitnesses that were mistaken. Today, we’ll be going over whether or not an eyewitness is wrong and what makes them incorrect. If you find yourself in need of a defense attorney, then take the time to contact us at Roselle & Breitigam, P.C.

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As you may have guessed above with some statistics from the Innocence Project, an eyewitness testimony in a case can be incorrect. Keep in mind that an eyewitness doesn’t decide to be wrong on purpose and they aren’t lying, but there are reasons behind why an eyewitness may be wrong about what they say. With scientific evidence, we’re going to dive into how eyewitness misidentification can be inaccurate.

While circumstances vary substantially, it’s vital that when there is eyewitness testimony that you shouldn’t become too nervous about the outcome of what could happen with your case. At Roselle & Breitigam, P.C., we strive to get cold hard evidence and aggressive negotiation tactics to create a strategy that will work for your situation. While eyewitness testimonies can be helpful, we don’t go off of that alone. For more information on our focus areas and our methods, reach out to us.


To help you understand more about eyewitness testimonies and how they can be wrong, take the time to explore these three reasons that are listed below. While eyewitness testimonies can be wrong, we continue to use them to help a case and provide more information on the legal matter. From the memory to misidentifying the person, these reasons will shed some light on why you shouldn’t only go off of eyewitness testimony. All of these reasons are based on science that’s been gathered for decades by different organizations.


The memory is a fickle thing. You may remember something from five years ago perfectly, but not be able to remember what you had for breakfast last week. When it comes to eyewitness testimonies, memory is something that contributes a lot to the identification process. The reason that eyewitness accounts are so credible is that there are misconceptions about how the memory works.

Each of these misconceptions is very popular and many people believe them. For example, one misconception of eyewitness testimony is that a majority of people think that the human memory is like a video recorder. The mind will remember the events and then play them back in the exact way they played out. However, psychologists have found that the memory is reconstructed instead of being played back and forward. This means that when someone is asked to detail what exactly happened, it’s deconstructed into their version of it.


When a crime occurs and there is a witness, there are many different procedures that can be implemented. There’s the show-up procedure, which is when a witness is shown the scene of the crime with the suspect in it and then there’s one where the suspect is placed in another incriminating context to determine whether or not the suspect did it. Another procedure is when there are a variety of photos of the suspect or are in a lineup. While these procedures seem to be soundproof, that’s not always the case. In one situation, the eyewitness only saw the suspect once in the distance and it was dark. In another case, the photo of the suspect was marked, so it was much easier to pick out the suspect. In addition, the eyewitness may hesitate to determine who the suspect is due to having an array of options to pick from.


Lastly, another way an eyewitness can be wrong is because of the identification. Like we touched on above, a witness can hesitate when he or she picks the person out of a lineup. They can also be coerced to pick the suspect because the image was marked down as they were looking at it. In addition, a suspect can be chosen because they learn more about the suspect and they come up with the description of the person based on what they heard. This can include learning information about their height, weight, and whether or not they have facial hair.

If you find yourself in need of a defense attorney, then take the time to contact our law firm.