Reliability of eyewitness testimonies in North Carolina

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Eyewitness testimony can play a big part in criminal court cases in North Carolina. They can be the last piece of evidence needed to convict someone of a crime or the only thing that points to their innocence. However, despite the weight eyewitness testimony carries in court cases, it is not always reliable. A significant percentage of wrongful convictions lie in the realm of eyewitness misidentification.

Reasons why eyewitness testimonies are inaccurate

Eye witness testimonies depend on what a person can remember. Memory is fallible and can be easily distorted by certain things, such as the time that had passed since the event occurred, if a person was under the influence when they witnessed the event and external factors such as police questioning techniques. It’s also possible that someone might identify an individual based on a preconceived bias or preconception.

Another problem with relying heavily on eyewitness testimony is that it often involves cross-racial identifications. Studies have found that people are less accurate at identifying individuals outside their own race. This could lead to false convictions even when they didn’t intend to accuse someone falsely.

It is also important to note that studies have found a link between stress levels and accuracy when providing an eyewitness account. The higher their stress level, the more likely they won’t remember details accurately.

How to deal with eyewitness testimonies

If convicted and the prosecutor heavily relied on eyewitness testimony, the defendant’s criminal defense attorney can challenge the charge in court. They should look for discrepancies between what the witness says and other evidence presented in court. If there is enough doubt that casts a reasonable amount of doubt on the accuracy of the witness’s testimony, then they may be able to get a conviction overturned or reduced.

While eyewitness testimony can play an important role in criminal proceedings, judges or jurors should not take it as gospel truth. It is possible that false convictions and sentences can occur if they put too much trust into one person’s account of events. However, since you can’t change the law or tell judges how they should make their ruling, if the prosecutor charges you or your loved one with a crime based on someone else’s memory, finding evidence that can contradict what the eyewitness says can significantly help in proving your innocence.