Eyewitness identification easily sways juries. If a witness testifies that they saw the defendant commit the crime, there is a high probability that the jury will believe them. But should they? Numerous problems with eyewitness testimony call into question the reliability of eyewitness identifications.
- Psychologists have found that memories are not exact replicas of what happened; rather, memories are reconstructions of what happened. The brain does not work like a video recorder.
- Witnesses experience extreme stress at the crime scene and during the identification process, which could alter the accuracy of their identification.
- When weapons are present, witnesses often focus on the weapon more than the perpetrator, weakening their memory of what the person looked like.
- Cross-racial identification occurs often but is prone to inaccuracy.
- Police and prosecutorial agencies sometimes use suggestive eyewitness identification procedures.
- Perpetrators are known to use disguises.
- If the perpetrator lacks distinctive characteristics like tattoos or extreme height, it makes accurate identification difficult.