Humans can carry out incredibly complex tasks. This includes criminal investigations. Law enforcement investigates crimes, scientists examine DNA evidence and crime scenes can be reconstructed to a large extent. Eyewitnesses also play a key role in providing insight into what happened. There’s only one problem with all of this- humans can get it wrong, particularly eyewitnesses.
Outlined below are some of the main problems with eyewitness testimony.
The memory is fallible
It’s easy to take the memory for granted and not really give much thought to how it all works. Memories can be so vivid that you think of them as a recording of your life events. In reality, this isn’t how it works at all. Memories are constructed rather than recalled.
For instance, if you visited a beautiful place and wanted to recreate it in a drawing, then you’re going to take some key parts of that scene and fill in the blanks. Even if you’re incredibly artistic, when going back to the scene, the picture you have created is not going to be an exact match.
In terms of a crime scene, your memory is going to work in a similar way. You may remember some key factors but you’re going to have to fill in a lot of the blanks. Generally, the more time that has passed the more difficult this is going to be. By the time a court case comes to trial, witnesses may have forgotten much of what happened.
It’s difficult for a person to admit this, especially when they want someone to pay for the crime and they truly believe they are recalling events accurately. But with the high standard of proof in criminal cases (beyond reasonable doubt), it can be problematic for such testimony to be relied on.
If inaccurate eyewitness testimony is being used against you then it must be challenged. With the right legal guidance behind you, this can be done.