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Debunking Eyewitness Statements

Debunking Eyewitness Statements

Minnesota has adopted strict guidelines that prevent mistaken identifications from witness statements. The laws enforce police investigations of witness credibility and ensure line-up procedures to identify suspects are not biased.

DNA Evidence Questions Eyewitness Testimony

When crimes are committed, law enforcement usually looks for eyewitnesses who saw criminal activities occur or know something about them. In criminal cases, the court places a lot of weight on eyewitness testimony or accounts of the event. For years, police detectives and state prosecutors have based their criminal cases on the accuracy of eyewitness statements and court testimony. However, eyewitness accounts of crime scenes have proven to be inaccurate, often letting criminals go free and incarcerating innocent people.

In recent years, concerns about the validity of eyewitness testimony have emerged due to scientific advancements in DNA research. In many criminal cases, new DNA evidence has exonerated falsely accused individuals that were previously convicted of criminal offenses. According to the Innocence Project, 358 people convicted of crimes and sentenced to death have been exonerated through DNA evidence. Of these, 71% of convictions were based on inaccurate eyewitness testimony. Those released spent an average of 14 years in prison.

Once undisputed by the courts, eyewitness statements are now proving to be inaccurate about many facts. Research is showing that witnesses’ memories are often compromised by cognitive memory skills, lapses in time, pressure from investigators, biased police lineups, and fear of retribution from suspects or law enforcement.

Guidelines on identification procedures in police lineups are being restructured. New findings show bias in many current police line-up procedures around the country. In many cases where eyewitnesses are shown photographs of possible suspects, they are not able to make a positive identification. However, when presented with a live line-up, they are much more likely to pick out a face they saw in the photographs, even if it’s the wrong person. This type of biased identification process by law enforcement is often blamed for putting many innocent people in prison.

In most states, criminal offenders face heavy fines and prison sentences, if convicted. In Minnesota, felony convictions carry fines up to $30,000 and prison terms of 5 to 30 years, depending on the circumstances of the crime committed. A criminal attorney who can provide proper defense is essential in cases where inaccurate eyewitness testimony and mistaken identity may put an innocent person behind bars for many years.

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