Eyewitness misidentification error: Convicting the innocent

Errors in the eyewitness identification process may lead to a wrongful conviction of an innocent person.

Eyewitness testimony can have a major impact in a criminal case. As people testify to a crime they witnessed weeks, months or even years ago, it can be difficult to recall specific details of an incident that occurred in the past. When people in Georgia are asked to choose a suspect from a physical of photo lineup, there are factors that may lead them to select an innocent person. However, once a person is chosen from an eyewitness lineup and labeled as a suspect, the risk for erroneous conviction of an innocent person is significantly higher. According to the Innocence Project, 349 people have been released from prison after evidence proved their innocence. Of those cases, 70 percent involved eyewitness identification errors.

Factors leading to eyewitness misidentification

There are several factors that can increase the likelihood that a witness or victim will select the wrong person from an eyewitness lineup. One of the most common errors involves the person who is administering the lineup. In some cases, he or she may inadvertently comment or give physical cues to persuade the victim to choose a specific person from the lineup. Furthermore, the lineup may be organized in such a way that only one person matches the identity of the suspect. For example, if the perpetrator is said to be short and have facial hair, there must be more than one person in the lineup that is short and has facial hair.

Limitations of the human memory

In addition to problems involving the actual eyewitness identification process, limitations of the human memory may also play a role. Studies indicate that the human memory is extremely limited in its ability to remember details, such as unique facial details. This is especially true if the perpetrator is of a different race than the victim or witness. If the witness is under extreme stress, he or she is less likely to remember specific details of the crime.

Conditions at the actual crime scene can also inhibit the witness's view, such as limited light. Witnesses who were standing a distance away from the perpetrator may not have gotten a good look at the suspect's face. The perpetrator may have been wearing a mask, which can also alter their appearance.

Upholding your rights

If you have been charged with a crime, you may feel overwhelmed with the potential outcome of the case. You may not know where to turn when it comes to finding someone who will protect your rights during the legal process. An experienced attorney in Georgia may offer assistance by listening to the details of your case and helping you explore your legal options. A knowledgeable representative is key when defending your rights in court.