Unreliability of Some Eyewitness Testimony

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Eyewitness testimony can be an unbelievable convincing configuration of evidence during criminal justice proceedings. Many people from the public and even officials trust eyewitnesses to provide an accurate remembrance and clear insights of what occurred at the time of the crime. However, eyewitness testimonies on many occasions have been the reason for wrongful convictions through the United States. This is why numerous factors play a role in why eyewitness testimonies are unreliable. Some of those factors include the limitation of memory, environmental/ visual character(s), and lineup procedures.

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Limitation of memory is a factor that the public is viewing as static, but the reality is that the human brain works tricks on itself when it comes to remembrance. Experts; Florence Rueda and Luke Hildreth, Austin Attorneys “As the National Academy of Sciences noted in 2014 in a comprehensive report on eyewitness testimony, memories may become distorted or degraded when they are initially made or when they are later recalled.” (What factors can make eyewitness testimony unreliable?: Hildreth & Rueda: Austin, Texas. (n.d.)) In many cases, the eyewitness doesn’t realize the changes his/ her memories have gone through.

When witnessing a crime witnesses base their identifications on the environment that is surrounding them and the suspect’s features. The atmosphere conditions can prevent an eyewitness from accurately recognizing or remembering what occurred at the time of the crime scene. An example can be if a person witnessed a crime at night which leads to poor lightning due to the darkness. Visual character is based upon an identification of features and characteristics seen from witnesses. For example, during a crime, if the eyewitness saw the suspects wearing a hat, glasses, or hoodie this may result in misidentifying the supposed suspect.

Both limitation of memory and environmental/ visual character leading up to the lineup procedure. During the lineup “Witnesses are often asked to identify suspects through lineups, both physical and photographs.” (What factors affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony? (n.d.)) However, witness memories can become contort due to the poor procedures while identifications. While lineup there’s a slight chance that authorities provide certain information that can adulterate with their memories. This results in wrongful convictions in some cases. We can take a look at the Francisco Carrillo Jr. case. Fransisco was 16 years old when a fatal drive-by shooting took place and Donald Sarpy was killed. Fransisco was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. “In 2011, a judge overturned his conviction after witnesses who had identified Carrillo as the shooter recanted and a reenactment of the shooting convinced the court that the witnesses could not have seen the shooter well enough to accurately identify him.” (Sewell, A. (2016, July 19)

As you saw throughout this essay there are certain factors that why eyewitness testimonies are unreliable. The unreliability of eyewitness testimony can cause effects on the victims and the victims family that was put through the process of being wrongfully convicted. These people just didn’t lose contact with society or family but their part of their lives that can’t be taken back. This is why I believe experts should make this topic more aware to those who are uneducated on the topic. 

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