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2 more reasons eyewitness testimony is unreliable

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2022 | Criminal Defense

You have been accused of a violent crime – maybe assault or murder – and there are eyewitnesses willing to swear to your guilt in court.

Are you basically without a defense? Absolutely not. Although eyewitness testimony is often used in courtrooms, the reality is that eyewitness testimony is not always reliable. There are many effective ways to challenge what a witness thinks they saw. Here are two:

Trauma can affect memory quite badly

Being in the proximity of a violent crime and witnessing the actual event and its aftermath is unquestionably traumatic for the vast majority of people. Even for people who have seen violence before, like police officers and soldiers, the situation would be stressful.

The human mind and memory are malleable at any given point, and research has shown that traumatic events can cause a stress reaction that blocks out key details or even whole memories.

The “weapon focus effect” is quite real

If a weapon was used in the crime in question, it is a blunt fact that the eyewitnesses may have had their attention primarily on the weapon – not everything else that was happening.

Overall, studies have shown that the “weapon focus effect” is the phenomenon that describes how attention is drawn to the weapon and away from all other details. That means the witnesses may be able to describe the gun used in a crime better than they can the face or clothing or actions of the person holding it.

Don’t let the fact that the prosecution says they have witnesses to the crime scare you away from mounting an aggressive defense with the help of an experienced attorney.