When someone witnesses a crime, their testimony could lead to a conviction. The accused may then face appropriate penalties under the law. Tragically, many defendants suffer convictions based on improper witness testimony. Shockingly, a witness could take the stand in a Mississippi courtroom and deliver testimony faced on mistakes or outright false memories.
Witness testimony troubles
Wrongful convictions occur at a greater frequency than the public realizes. A review of convictions overturned by DNA evidence reveals 70% of 349 convictions shows the guilty verdicts came from misidentification. That is, the witness identified the wrong person.
A witness does not need to lie to provide inaccurate information about a defendant. A tremendous number of factors could impair a witness’s belief in what he or she sees. The witness might be too far away from the incident to make things out clearly. Other factors, such as the weather and the available lighting, might create false impressions of the witness’s mind.
Witness testimony and civil rights violations
Tragically, situations exist where the police coach witnesses to make statements that might not be entirely true, if at all. Biases or a rush to close a case may lead law enforcement officials to coerce witnesses to make specific statements. Doing so could be a terrible violation of the defendant’s rights. Those civil rights violations may come up during the defendant’s criminal defense.
A thorough cross-examination may uncover problems with a witness’s credibility. The witness might even admit to coercion from the police. Such revelations could ruin the prosecution’s case.
Still, wrongful convictions continue to happen in the United States. That does not mean the defendant has no options, as appeals may lead to a just outcome.