The shocking truth about eyewitness misidentification in WA

The eyewitness identification process is unreliable and has led to the wrongful imprisonment of innocent people in the U.S.

Washington State prisons are filled with people who are serving time for crimes they have committed. Not all of the state's prisoners, however, are guilty of committing a crime. Wrongful conviction has placed countless people behind bars, even though they are completely innocent of the crime they are accused of committing. While there are several factors that have led to this grave injustice, eyewitness misidentification is the most common contributor to wrongful incrimination in the country.

Two Washington men spent more than 16 years in prison because the victim of a crime wrongfully identified them as her attackers, according to the Innocence Project. During the attack in 1993, the woman was blindfolded and admitted that she did not get a good look at the men who assaulted her. She only knew that one man had blond hair, while the other man had brown hair. The woman chose the two men out of a physical lineup after she was allegedly given information about the possible suspects. She was also shown pictures of the two innocent men prior to the lineup. The men were finally exonerated from prison after DNA evidence from the rape kit taken immediately after the attack proved that both men were innocent.

What is eyewitness misidentification?

Research shows that the eyewitness identification process in Washington and in many other states across the country has flaws that can cause innocent people to be named as criminals. Since 1989, 328 people have been released from their prison sentences after DNA evidence proved their innocence, according to the Innocence Project. In 72 percent of the cases, eyewitness misidentification played a role in the erroneous conviction of the innocent person. Although the eyewitness identification process produces inherently unreliable results, many U.S. courts allow eyewitness testimony and identification as evidence in a criminal trial.

Even when this information is wrong, a jury is more likely to find a person guilty of a crime if there is an eyewitness placing them at the crime scene. According to PBS News, researchers conducted a study where a jury was presented circumstantial evidence regarding a robbery case. Afterward, 18 percent of the people on the jury found the defendant guilty. Researchers then constructed a trial where the same circumstantial evidence was presented to a second jury. However in this case, a single eyewitness testified that they saw the defendant at the scene of the crime. In this case, 72 percent of the jurors found the defendant guilty.

When to seek legal assistance

People who face criminal charges may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of spending time behind bars, and all of the other life-changing effects of a criminal conviction. A knowledgeable attorney in Washington State will carefully examine the details of your case and ensure all of your rights are upheld in court.

Keywords: eyewitness, identification, wrongful, conviction