Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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How accurate is eyewitness testimony?

As someone facing a criminal charge in Connecticut, you may have concerns about any potential eyewitnesses who plan to testify against you and how their testimony might impact your case. Historically, few types of evidence have proven as convincing to judges or juries as eyewitness testimony, which may lead you to believe that eyewitness statements are often valid and accurate. It turns out, however, that this is not always the case.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, while eyewitness testimony can often help convince a judge or jury of an alleged offender’s guilt, being convincing is not necessarily the same thing as being accurate. In fact, eyewitness testimony is actually far less accurate than most people believe.

To put this in perspective, you can review some statistics compiled by the Innocence Project regarding offenders who received death sentences for crimes they supposedly committed, but who then underwent exoneration as a result of DNA evidence. Of the 358 people in total who received death sentences and then had them overturned since 1989, more than 70% received their initial convictions because of eyewitness misidentification.

Furthermore, some of the instances of eyewitness misidentification involved witnesses identifying individuals who were not even the same race as the actual offenders. In 41% of those cases overturned since 1989, eyewitnesses made inaccurate cross-racial misidentifications. Additionally, offenders ordered to jail due following eyewitness misidentifications spent an average of 14 years in prison before their eventual release.

This information about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony is educational in nature and does not constitute legal advice.

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