More and more we are hearing about people who are convicted of crimes and sent to prison based on eye witnesses, who turn out to be innocent. DNA evidence is helping more and more wrongly convicted people to be freed. Of those, three quarters of people who have been proven to be innocent were convicted primarily because of eye witness testimony. And, in over a third of those cases, there were more than one eye witnesses who were wrong.
Sadly, while eye witness identification is inherently unreliable, it is the single most compelling evidence to jurors. So, the juries are putting the most stock in the weakest evidence.
Some say this is only a small problem where only a few convictions have happened to innocent people. Anyone who says that is either ignorant about the issue or in denial. Only a tiny fraction of the cases where DNA evidence is available to examine have been reviewed. The focus has been on only the most serious offenses where the wrongly convicted people are facing long prison terms if not the death penalty. Furthermore, only a tiny fraction of cases involve DNA evidence that could be used to exonerate the wrongly convicted person. Given that, the hundreds of people who have been exonerated mean that there must be thousands and thousands of people rotting away in prison for crimes they did not commit. That does not even begin to contemplate the other problems caused, for example, the real criminals still running around our streets committing more crimes.
We need national standards for line ups, jury instructions similar to those for oral confessions and much more training for police to try and keep innocent people from being convicted. If you think it is not a big deal, you better say a prayer that you are not the next person sent to prison for something someone else did.
If you or a loved one were charged with a criminal violation, please contact our office at (619)258-8888 for a free and confidential consultation with an experienced attorney.