An impartial witness who watched a crime take place should be able to give an accurate account of what happened, right? They were not involved, so they have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. They were simply watching for at least part of the time, and they can remember what happened perhaps better than someone who was involved, due to the lower level of stress. If they determine who was at fault, that can win a case for the prosecution.
That’s certainly how a lot of jury members look at it, but the truth is that you can’t trust eyewitnesses nearly that much. They are often wrong and unreliable. Some of the mistakes they have made over the years have drastically impacted people’s lives.
Let’s take a quick look at false convictions. These are usually convictions where DNA evidence, or something equally compelling, has proven that the person who was initially convicted actually wasn’t to blame. Some of these people have been behind bars for years or even decades before they get cleared and released.
Regardless, in three out of four of these cases, or 75%, a major role was played by an inaccurate eyewitness. The statement that the witness gave, blaming the person who was then convicted by a jury, was wrong. It’s as simple as that.
So, while witnesses do sometimes get it right, stats like this show that we probably put a bit too much faith in them. If you have been accused of a crime and you are concerned about being wrongfully convicted, make sure you know exactly what steps to take during your case.