SPELLMAN LAW, P.C.
Based In West Des Moines, Iowa, Practicing In Central
Iowa And Throughout The State Of Iowa

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Eyewitness defense testimony is problematic

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Charges |

Eyewitness testimony for crimes committed in Iowa can make or break a case. However, several high-profile cases involving wrongful convictions show that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate and can lead to problems, even though such accounts are deemed crucial.

Eyewitness testimony is not always accurate

A review of eyewitness testimony in criminal trials involving wrongful convictions has sparked serious discussions over misidentification that have lead to erroneous verdicts. Misidentifications by eyewitnesses have resulted in 70% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence.

Eyewitness testimony is not always accurate as those testifying can be influenced by subsequent events or even court proceedings. The accuracy of memories can fade too as memory can be influenced by erroneous information, suggestions or drugs and alcohol. Studies indicate that eyewitness accounts are most accurate the first time individuals tell their story. Clustering questions in a specific manner, like asking about what someone looked like, such as hair, height and weight, followed by another cluster involving the sequence of events, and so on, can promote accuracy.

Even lineups can be problematic. For accuracy, people in lineups should resemble the description from the original eyewitness accounts. Neither the person conducting the lineup or the eyewitness should know who the suspect is.

Combating serious criminal charges

Eyewitness testimony will remain an integral part of a prosecutor’s case against you. Mounting a solid defense against serious criminal charges remains your best option to prove your innocence.

Attention to detail is essential when mounting a sound defense. Discovering any changes in eyewitness testimony from the time of the first law enforcement interviews through trial could uncover holes in that may indicate inaccuracy or even outside influences. Exploring all options, including possible DNA evidence, may help your case.

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Sean P. Spellman
Mary K. “Molly” Spellman