In many criminal cases, an eyewitness is brought in to give their account of what happened. This account is often seen as trustworthy and accurate.
However, studies have found that eyewitnesses are often wrong. For example, nearly 400 people have been released from prison since DNA evidence has shown that they were wrongfully convicted. In almost 70% of these cases, the reason for the conviction was at least partially that an eyewitness gave testimony against that person. DNA evidence proves that these eyewitnesses can get it wrong, and that shows that we can’t always trust them.
What is perhaps more concerning is that this rate suggests there are far more people still in jail who have been convicted based on these inaccurate statements from witnesses. It’s just that DNA evidence doesn’t exist to exonerate them, so there is nothing that they can do.
The witnesses may not do this intentionally
The first question people ask is: Why? Why would a witness go to court and make false statements that put someone else in jail?
A lot of the time, that’s not what happens. The witnesses are not acting in a nefarious manner and they have no intent to create a wrongful conviction. They’re simply wrong because they’ve made a mistake, they’ve remembered things incorrectly, they couldn’t see as well as they thought, they’re biased in ways they don’t even know or something else of this nature.
But that doesn’t make the error any less serious to the person who is now going to jail for something they didn’t do. All of this just shows why it’s so very important to understand your criminal defense options if you’ve been accused of a crime.