Eyewitness: a person who actually sees some act, occurrence, or thing and can give a firsthand account of it.
Eyewitness testimony is one of the most powerful tools used by prosecutors to secure convictions. Eyewitness testimony is also the leading cause of wrongful convictions, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions that were later overturned through DNA testing.
Eyewitness testimony is viewed by many jurors as reliable but unfortunately that is not always the case. We see the world as we want to see it and we often miss details that happen right in front of our eyes. Human error plays a major factor when we are asked to remember specific events. Do you think you would make a good eyewitness? Click here to take the selective attention test.
Why do eyewitnesses make mistakes?
- Distance from the perpetrator
- Lighting conditions
- Race of the witness and race of the perpetrator (identifications have proven to be less accurate when witnesses are identifying perpetrators of a different race)
- Presence of a weapon during the incident
Featured Cases of Misidentification
Fixing the System
Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement – U.S. Department of Justice (1999). Explore the eyewitness identification guidelines recommended for use by law enforcement officials by a group of 34 seasoned professionals in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice.