But just think about this for a second. A person who is under stress and frazzled by the illegal act in question is being asked to remember the act perfectly? That witness is still susceptible to all of the weaknesses and flaws that any person has. They have biases just like other people; they may not remember things or add in details that weren’t there (not in a malicious way); and, in general, they aren’t perfect.
Eyewitness testimony has an aura about it of being an ironclad piece of evidence, but it is far from this “ironclad” description. A new report pours more water on the idea that eyewitnesses are perfect.
According to the report, there are inherent limits to human vision and memory that lead to accuracy issues when eyewitnesses are relied upon to recount a crime. Even scarier still, there is a note in the report that unintentional cues from law enforcement could trigger eyewitnesses to remember or perceive things in a different or compromised way.
What we’re trying to say is that eyewitnesses aren’t everything. They don’t necessarily make or break a case, and they shouldn’t have such a perception.
Source: National Academies, “Report Urges Caution in Handling and Relying Upon Eyewitness Identifications in Criminal Cases, Recommends Best Practices for Law Enforcement and Courts,” Oct. 2, 2014