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Eyewitness confirms that defendant “did it:” Is that unassailable?
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Eyewitness confirms that defendant “did it:” Is that unassailable?

In response to the above-posed blog headline, we know that our readers in the Detroit metro area and across Michigan will reasonably note that every piece of material evidence in a criminal law case is subject to closest scrutiny and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, that doesn’t preclude a jury’s inclination — predisposition, if you will — to attribute instant credence to the statements uttered by a supposed eyewitness to criminal behavior.

And especially when that individual is sitting next to a judge in a courtroom and pointing directly at a defendant while pronouncing him or her guilty of a crime.

Welcome to the slippery slope of eyewitness identifications in criminal trials, subject matter that has been adjudged more than a bit problematic by many criminal law researchers and advocacy groups focused upon just trial outcomes.

Here’s the problem that often exists with such testimony, as stated by the prominent national group Innocence Project: it is frequently marked by error in some or all details, resulting in a harrowing bottom line marked by the incarceration of a wrongly convicted individual.

In fact, notes the Project, faulty witness identification is a prime determinant “in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide.”

There can be a number of reasons why people make identification-related mistakes in good faith, states the Project, with many errors linking closely back to infirm police lineup practices and procedures.

Things simply must improve, say victims’ advocates, with a good starting point being adoption of a number of suggested reforms concerning the lineup process. Those suggestions can be gleaned via the above-cited link.

Wrongful conviction for any reason is arguably the greatest injustice that can ever occur in the American criminal justice system. No reasonable person would ever argue against the implementation of every systemic safeguard that can work to prevent such an outcome.

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