R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Eyewitness identification: Not always reliable in court

When people in Texas are charged with a violent crime, their case may go to trial before a court-appointed judge or jury. Using their judgement from the evidence presented in the case, the judge or jury ultimately determine the accused offender’s fate. In some cases, there may be eyewitnesses, who give testimony as to what they saw or perceived to have happened during the incident. Many studies show, however, that eyewitness testimonies and identifications are unreliable and they may lead to innocent people being convicted of a crime they did not commit.

According to the American Bar Association, errors in the eyewitness lineup process, as well as limitations of the human memory and environmental factors can influence a person’s ability to accurately identify a suspect. Unfortunately, a number of people serve prison sentences and face other penalties due to eyewitness misidentification.

In fact, the Innocence Project reported that 347 people have been released from their prison sentences after further testing of DNA evidence proved that they were innocent of committing a crime. Of those cases, 70 percent involved issues of eyewitness misidentification. Sadly, countless more innocent people sit behind bars because of mistakes that were made during their trial.

In order to minimize the number of people who are wrongfully convicted of a crime, several states have set regulations and procedures to follow when conducting eyewitness lineups. Once the flaws in the system have been identified, state and federal officials can implement legislation to help save lives from erroneous convictions in the future.

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