Eyewitness testimony is a valid and oft-used form of evidence in New Mexico’s criminal courts. However, studies increasingly show that humans’ ability to accurately assess and remember situational details isn’t nearly as great as once thought.
Eye-popping eyewitness testimony study results
Since the 1960s, social scientists, psychologists, biologists and psychiatrists have conducted numerous peer-reviewed studies that examine human perception. In nearly every case, the results shout a similar refrain: people are notoriously bad at seeing the world as it actually is. Because in reality, our perceptions are an amalgamation of subconscious biases, past experiences and socially conditioned expectations.
Shockingly, the Innocence Project reports that eyewitness testimony plays a role in 70% of cases that are later expunged or overturned by DNA evidence. The numbers highlight the importance of criminal defense work by proving that too many folks are wrongly convicted.
Why is eyewitness testimony unreliable?
We humans tend to think of ourselves as brilliant beings with superior perception skills. And while we’ve conquered technology and engineering, we rank low on the self-awareness and self-assessment scales.
Why are we bad at correctly soaking in the world around us? The main problem is our psyches, which fill in gaps with past experiences and socially conditioned biases. For example, an individual who was once mugged by a blonde man wearing a red shirt may superimpose those details onto a mugging perpetrator with red hair wearing a green shirt. Personal experience is not the only factor, though. Media consumption also shapes our worldview.
Stress is another major factor. When it’s racing through our veins, we may not think or see clearly.
Eyewitness testimony can be laced with personal prejudices and cognitive inaccuracies. If you’re the victim of someone’s faulty remembrances, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to set the record straight.