Eyewitness testimony is often a major element of a prosecution's case when it comes to criminal matters. After all, if someone testifies that he or she saw someone commit a crime, that statement is taken very seriously by judges and juries.
Unfortunately, eyewitness accounts are not necessarily as reliable as people think. People's memories and impressions can be easily skewed and compromised. Further, factors including distance, lighting and preconceived impressions can all affect what people see and what they remember. Sadly, when these flawed accounts are presented as facts, innocent people can be put behind bars.
This was the case for one man who served 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. According to news reports, he was recently released from prison, but not until he had already served most of his wrongful sentence.
The man was originally identified by witnesses who later admitted they were not confident about their identification. During his trial, the man had an alibi and denied participating in an aggravated robbery. He also was missing a tattoo, which was one of the identifiers reported by one witness.
Despite all the evidence in his favor, the man was convicted and sentenced to prison because of the eyewitness testimony.
It was only years later that the man discovered he had a doppleganger who lived in the same area and had an extensive criminal record. The two men look very similar and even have similar names. However, only one of them was wrongfully convicted of a crime the other one likely committed.
The flawed testimony of unreliable witnesses can be devastating if it is not challenged and scrutinized in court. It is also critical to examine the methods police use to get witnesses to identify someone, including photo lineups which can manipulate witnesses into picking a certain person.
If you are facing criminal charges for something you did not do, challenging witness testimony will be crucial in avoiding a conviction. Doing so can prove to be just as important as any evidence supporting your innocence, if not more so.