Police, prosecutors and juries often rely on eyewitness testimony to determine what really happened at the scene of a crime. While this may seem like a concrete way to get a conviction, eyewitness testimony isn't rock solid and can be affected by several factors. When you are the accused in a court case, it's vital that the eyewitness testimony given is accurate and true. If you are facing a long sentence or conviction of a serious crime, the eyewitnesses should be as competent as possible.
Stress and anxiety
After witnessing a crime, the stress and anxiety levels of an eyewitness are likely to be at an all-time high. Research shows that the more stress a person feels while viewing a violent attack, the less likely he or she is to remember the details. Because violence almost always causes some type of stress or anxiety, eyewitnesses who have seen violent crimes may be unreliable.
Along with violent crime, the presence of a weapon or gun at the scene of a crime may also intensify the level of anxiety and stress, making it difficult for the witness to remember details that are important to determining what happened.
Experts agree that the human brain does not work like a videotape but is influenced by societal and cultural norms. This means that memories may be influenced by factors in the lives of the eyewitness rather than what really happened. The brain may take an unacceptable situation and warp it to fit in with how the brain feels things should be. These reconstructive memories make it hard to rely on eyewitness testimony.
If the eyewitness is of a different race than the accused, there may be built-in prejudices or racism that affect how the brain remembers the event. These are difficult to account for and prove but can greatly influence the accuracy of the eyewitness.
Lack of distinct characteristics
If the accused lacks in distinctive characteristics, it's also hard for an eyewitness to come up with a positive identification. If a person has obvious tattoos or is extremely tall, this gives the eyewitness information to work with. The average person walking down the street may be hard to remember, and testimony about the person may not be accurate.
If your life and future hang on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, it's important to guarantee that the witness is competent and knows exactly what happened. Part of a legal representative's job is to find reasons the testimony may not be accurate and show how that can be applied to prove your innocence. Contact an experienced attorney to learn more.