Ways to discredit eyewitness testimony

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Although many people consider eyewitness testimony as a gold standard for building a case, it is more unreliable than you think. Even the American Psychological Association recognizes the frequency of mistaken eyewitness identification in those later exonerated by DNA evidence.

When you face charges with an eyewitness testifying for the prosecution, there are options to discredit that testimony.

Stress alters the way your brain stores memories

In moments of high stress, the adrenaline and cortisol in the body can interfere with the ability to remember an incident clearly, especially for observers who are not actively involved. As a result, an eyewitness who was afraid for their safety or otherwise stressed may have incomplete or false memories of the situation.

The human memory is fallible

You might think of memories as unchanging, but the human brain can alter, adjust and fill in the gaps in memories at will. Unfortunately, this means that some of the things people remember may not have happened the way that they recall them because the brain fills in gaps in memories with its own version of the events.

Weapon blindness affects observations

Some witnesses suffer from a condition called weapon blindness. In a situation where a weapon is visible, they develop a fixation on the weapon itself, typically out of fear. This focus on the weapon interferes with the ability to absorb any other evidence, including the assailant’s face.

Discrediting eyewitness testimony starts with understanding human psychology fundamentals. In addition, attention to detail can help choose the proper argument to cast doubt.