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Eyewitness Testimony: A Reliable Source Of Evidence Or Roll Of Dice?

The judicial system has historically valued eyewitness testimony highly as a type of evidence. The testimony of witnesses to crimes is frequently given considerable weight by juries. On the other hand, questions about the validity of eyewitness accounts have surfaced recently.

As the effects of incorrect identifications and false recollections on the criminal justice system have grown more obvious, this has spurred discussions among academics, psychologists, and legal professionals. In order to give a thorough understanding of eyewitness testimony, this article will look at its advantages and disadvantages, reliability-influencing variables, and possible effects on court cases.

The Strengths of Eyewitness Testimony

Evidence regarding a crime that may not be available from other sources can be crucially provided by eyewitness testimony. Witnesses' testimony is essential since they are sometimes the only people who have personally witnessed the events. They can provide information about the perpetrator's appearance, the circumstances that led up to it, and even their motivation.

As someone who saw the incident firsthand and may feel a stronger emotional attachment to the case, eyewitnesses can also provide the jury with a feeling of authenticity and believability.

A witness's credibility can also be increased if they are certain and consistent in their evidence. The perception of accuracy among jurors might be positively impacted by a witness who exudes confidence. Furthermore, being able to recognize a suspect from the credibility of eyewitness testimony is strengthened by the use of lineups or in court as potent forms of proof.

The Weaknesses of Eyewitness Testimony:

  1. Memory Reconstruction:
    Human memory is a reconstructive process that is impacted by a number of variables rather than an exact account of what happened. Eyewitness accounts may contain errors due to memory alterations, contamination, or other influences. Leading questions, stress, and emotional arousal are a few more factors that might skew memory and affect eyewitness credibility.
  2. Cross-Racial Identification:
    Research has repeatedly demonstrated that compared to people of other races, people are better at distinguishing and identifying the faces of members of their own race. When eyewitnesses try to identify suspects from a different racial background, a phenomenon known as the cross-race effect or own-race prejudice can result in misidentifications and erroneous convictions.
  3. Weapon Focus:
    Witnesses frequently concentrate more on the weapon than the perpetrator's face when they are in high-stress situations, like a crime with a weapon. The "weapon focus" may cause a person to remember the offender's face characteristics less clearly, which will make identification more difficult.
  4. Post-Event Information:
    Post-event details such as media coverage, conversations with other witnesses, and probing questioning from lawyers or law enforcement can all have an impact on eyewitnesses. When an eyewitness is exposed to such material, their memory may become tainted, resulting in the creation of false recollections or distorted impressions of the incident.

Factors Affecting Eyewitness Testimony:

  • Witness Characteristics: The reliability of eyewitness evidence can be greatly impacted by variables including age, stress levels, and the presence of a weapon. Older eyewitness reliability may be impacted by age-related issues, such as the aging-related reduction in memory function. Accurately encoding and recalling information might be hampered by stress. Additionally, a weapon present during a crime might deflect attention from the offender's actions.
  • Lineup Procedures: Eyewitness identification accuracy can be significantly impacted by the manner lineups are performed. The simultaneous presentation technique, which shows the eyewitness all possible suspects at once, is frequently used in traditional lineups. Relative judgements caused by this strategy may result in misidentifications. Suspects are presented one at a time in sequential lineups, which have been shown to improve accuracy and decrease false identifications.
  • Suggestive Questioning: The way witnesses are questioned might affect how well they remember what happened. Leading questions have the potential to taint a witness's memory and produce false testimony by suggesting a specific response or providing false information. It is imperative that attorneys and law enforcement agencies avoid employing suggestive questioning strategies that might unintentionally sway the witness's testimony.
  • Impact on Legal Proceedings: Legal processes may be significantly impacted by the possible unreliability of eyewitness evidence. Erroneous identifications may result in erroneous convictions, which might have serious repercussions for innocent people. Erroneous eyewitness identifications have been a significant role in over 70% of DNA exoneration cases in the United States.

Legal practitioners need to be mindful of the limits associated with eyewitness evidence and take appropriate precautions to lessen its possible influence. It is important to educate jurors on the subject matters of eyewitness fallibility, circumstances that may impact its accuracy, and the need of corroboration with other available evidence. Expert testimony from memory and perception psychologists can assist juries in reaching more informed verdicts and lessen the significance of eyewitness reports.

Even while eyewitness testimony is useful, it is not perfect. In judicial processes, the benefits and drawbacks of this kind of evidence should be carefully considered.. Eyewitness accuracy may be greatly impacted by factors including weapon concentration, memory reconstruction, cross-racial identification, and post-event information.

The credibility of eyewitness evidence can be increased by employing best practices including double-blind administration, consecutive lineups, and refraining from provocative questions.

However, it is crucial to understand that, if feasible, eyewitness testimony should be verified by other types of evidence rather than being completely relied upon. For a fair and impartial criminal justice system, it is necessary to do ongoing study, raise awareness, and educate people on the complexity of eyewitness evidence.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Priyansi Panigrahi
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Authentication No: JN400196048487-1-0124

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