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Eyewitness errors a factor in many wrongful convictions

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2018 | Criminal Defense

Since as far back as the 1930s at least, researchers have chronicled inaccuracy issues related to eyewitness identification. For people in Texas who are charged with crimes, a misidentification by an eyewitness can be difficult to overcome at trial. A theme among researchers is that memory is not the same as a tape recording. Memory can be influenced by events that occur later, even including things like the body language of police during lineups.

Eyewitnesses are more likely to make identification mistakes regarding a person of a race other than their own. Judges sometimes instruct juries on the problem, but that may not go very far toward eliminating prejudice. According to the Innocence Project, misidentification by eyewitnesses was a factor in 71 percent of the convictions that have later been overturned based on DNA evidence. There have been more than 350 such wrongful convictions overturned since 1989.

In Texas and 24 other states, law enforcement agencies have implemented policies and procedures to avoid misidentification in police lineups. The policies in these states cover either the entire state or at least 75 percent of the state’s population. According to statistics published by the National Registry of Exonerations, which includes cases that were overturned for other than DNA evidence, erroneous identifications impacted the outcomes of 29 percent of wrongful convictions.

A person who is charged with a crime in Texas is presumed innocent until proven guilty. An attorney may be able to help a defendant by reviewing the facts of the case, including prosecution evidence, and developing a defense strategy. An attorney with experience in criminal defense might seek to prevent the introduction of prejudicial evidence at trial or might argue on behalf of the client during court proceedings. An attorney might also be able to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors.