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The problems with eyewitness testimony

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Eyewitness testimony is often used as part of the prosecution’s strategy to earn a conviction in a Maryland criminal case. It can also be used during civil proceedings to help establish the plaintiff’s narrative. However, there are many different reasons why this type of evidence may not be as reliable as the general public might think.

Emotions can get in the way

After hearing a gunshot, a witness is likely to panic and find a safe place to hide. The same might be true after someone breaks into a house or tries to commit another type of crime. In the quest to stay safe, an eyewitness’ recollection of the events could be clouded by fear.

Memories fade

Even if a witness is sure that the defendant is the person who committed a crime, it may be difficult to maintain a story for a prolonged period of time. For example, after several weeks or months, it may be hard for the witness to remember details, even important ones. It may also be hard to recall the type of vehicle the accused drove off in or any distinguishing features of the weapon used to commit the crime. Ultimately, the inconsistencies provided by a witness may provide an effective criminal defense against a charge.

People can be swayed

In some cases, witnesses will say what they think the police want them to say or point someone out of a lineup to feel as if they are being helpful. Of course, testimony that is perceived to be coerced or inaccurate has a strong possibility of being disregarded by a jury.

If you’re charged with a crime, casting doubt on witness testimony may make it possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed. You may also be able to cast doubt on other evidence such as toxicology reports or police reports in an effort to obtain a favorable outcome in your case.