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How eyewitness misidentifications lead to wrongful convictions

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Many people in Texas believe that eyewitness testimony is among the most compelling forms of evidence available against someone accused of a crime. For this reason, you may feel anxious if you are facing a criminal charge and have one or more eyewitnesses planning to testify against you. If so, your feelings have merit, because eyewitness misidentifications are now the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the United States.

According to the Innocence Project, a review of the more than 375 overturned convictions in the United States revealed that eyewitness misidentifications played a contributing role in the majority of them.

Why eyewitness accounts are often inaccurate

Studies show that mistaken eyewitness identifications contributed to 69% of the more than 375 wrongful convictions overturned due to DNA evidence across the United States. There are many problems associated with traditional lineups that may contribute to the high number of false eyewitness accounts. For starters, sometimes the person conducting the lineup gives the witness unintentional cues about a suspect’s identity. Other times, the administrator may not tell the witness that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup. This may, too, lead to false eyewitness identifications.

How to improve the accuracy of eyewitness accounts

Some law enforcement agencies are making efforts to improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.  Some ask witnesses to state how confident they are in their selection. Some agencies are also offering up more instructions to eyewitnesses before lineups. Others yet are instituting “double-blind” lineups where neither the witness nor administrator knows the identity of the suspect.

Texas is among the states that have adopted certain Innocence Project recommendations intended to improve the accuracy of eyewitness accounts.