You might think your chances of presenting a successful criminal defense are finished if someone tells you they have an eyewitness willing to testify against you. While you should certainly be concerned, you also need to treat their claim with a pinch of suspicion.
Police or prosecutors may tell you they have a fabulous eyewitness when they don’t at all. It may just be a ploy to get you to speak or to accept a plea deal. Alternatively, maybe they have someone who thinks they saw you, but that does not mean they did. It also does not mean that they would be willing to take the stand or that they can actually convince a court they saw you.
Eyewitnesses are often wrong
A quick look through history will show a lot of people who were wrongly convicted due to eyewitness testimony. Here are some of the reasons eyewitnesses get it wrong:
- Their view of the event: “I saw him on a clear day from 10 meters away for five minutes,” is not the same as “I saw him through the rain, at night, from a hundred meters away, for a couple of seconds.”
- Their vision: Does the eyewitness have 20/20 vision, or do they struggle to see through the glasses on the end of their nose?
- Their memory: Memory is not static. Did anyone influence them to remember things a certain way? Do they smoke so much marijuana that they struggle to remember what day it is?
- Their motives: Is this someone genuinely looking to help solve a crime? Or are they testifying to get back at you or to score leniency for crimes they’ve committed?
Don’t expect challenging an eyewitness to be easy. You’ll want legal help to execute your defense strategy as effectively as possible.