Eyewitness testimony can be incredibly unreliable. In fact, research has shown that eyewitnesses are often wrong about what they remember seeing. This can have serious consequences in criminal trials, where eyewitness testimony can be the deciding factor in whether the Mississippi criminal courts convicts or acquits someone.
Reasons for problematic testimony
Eyewitness testimony is an account a victim or a bystander gives in the courtroom, describing what they saw during a crime. The witness testifies under oath. Unfortunately, even when the eyewitness gives their perspective in good faith, there are several reasons why this testimony may be unreliable.
Memory is fallible and often unreliable; people can easily forget small details or misremember what happened during a traumatic event. Stress, age and the time-sensitive nature of memories can also make it hard to accurately recall events that occurred in the past.
Studies have also found that suggestibility can play a role in how reliable an eyewitness’s testimony is. People are often influenced by outside factors, such as leading questions or pressure from authority figures, which can cause them to misremember key facts or embellish certain details.
Finally, implicit biases based on gender, race or socioeconomic background can affect how accurately an eyewitness reports information. These biases can lead to wrongful convictions of innocent people, especially if the eyewitness is from a different demographic than the defendant.
A criminal conviction significantly disrupts life for the defendants, their families, friends, and other people who depend on them. Although some witness statements are unreliable, other witnesses and evidence may prove your innocence. Juries may disregard inaccurate testimony if the preponderance of evidence supports you.