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Relying on a witness to identify the suspect of a crime

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Many Missouri residents are aware that if a crime occurs, any person who witnesses the crime may be asked at a later time to identify the person who committed the crime from a lineup. While the person who did commit the crime may actually be in the lineup, there are cases where the authorities have identified the wrong person, meaning there could be an innocent suspect included in the lineup.

While the identification of a person in a lineup is just one piece of evidence, it can be common for the witness identification to be the basis of the authorities’ case. The problem is that according to a vast array of research, witnesses commonly make errors and regularly choose a person the authorities know to be innocent. As such, it has to be determined if the witness’s memory is accurate.

One indicator to determine this is the witness’s confidence in his or her choice. Law enforcement authorities, included judges and jurors, seem to think that confidence in choice is a reliable indicator. However, confidence can only be a reliable indicator if pristine conditions are met, such as issuing a warning that the accused person may not be in the lineup, organizing the lineup under the direction of someone who did not know who the accused person was and ensuring that confidence was measured immediately after the witness identified the person.

Witness testimony and identification is not always correct. If a person is found guilty for a crime based on witness identification alone, the consequences can be extremely significant, especially if the accused person was ultimately not involved in the crime. If a witness identifies a person as being involved in a crime, a criminal defense attorney may represent the accused person in the criminal trial by demonstrating that there is no reliable proof that the accused person actually committed the crime.