Violations to the law are committed everywhere all the time, but a lot of these crimes just go unpunished mostly because of the lack of evidence. Thankfully, there are eyewitnesses who are able to provide their accounts of these offenses, with their testimonies becoming a very important part of litigations and investigation. In court, these individuals will be frequently asked if they could identify the suspect, and to be able to be effective, they must rely on their memory of the incident, whether it is robbery, murder, assault or any other form of felony. Moreover, they can only be credible if their version of the story is cohesive, consistent and comprehensible. To have a better understanding of the role of eyewitness testimony in court proceedings, it is really useful to look into its pros and cons.
List of Pros of Eyewitness Testimony
1. It can shed light into the sequence of the events that constitute the crime.
The eyewitness testimony helps the lawyers and the jury to better understand everything about the case by explaining how the crime was committed, where it happened and who was involved. As a result, they can establish a motive based on the witness’s account and come up with the best final decision.
2. It can influence the decision of the jury.
The role of the jury in a hearing is to assess the truth of the witness’s statement and identify credibility issues. So, having credible witnesses under oath will allow the jury to determine whether the defendant is guilty of the crime he is accused of.
3. It is generally reliable.
A testimony that is still fresh from the time the crime was committed has a higher chance that the account of the story is still vivid in the witness’s mind, which qualifies it as more reliable. This would make it easier for the investigators and the judge to take the best course of action.
List of Cons of Eyewitness Testimony
1. It can contain parts that are just made up by the witness due to pressure.
Fear and nervousness can affect a person’s memory. As for an eyewitness, he would normally feel pressured knowing that everyone else in the courtroom is counting on him, which might lead him into saying something that is inaccurate or wrong, or not being able to recall the crucial details and sequence of events that could have helped solve the case.
2. It is not always accurate.
Past research on human memory revealing that events and details of events were erroneously recorded and stored in people’s minds. Some of the subjects falsely remembered seeing images that were not there during a certain incident. When words were injected into certain questions, the subjects also incorrectly provided accounts of what they saw. These findings indicate that eyewitness testimony may not be accurate sometimes.
3. It may convict the wrong person.
As the jury puts great emphasis and value on a witness’s memory of the incident, even with insufficient physical evidence, the testimony can put the wrong individual in jail. Even if he may be freed from prison, the jury’s decision would forever change his life in a way that he could lose his job, dignity or even his loved ones.
Because of its pros and cons, eyewitness testimony originally needs to have 2 or 3 eyewitnesses for conviction. And as the justice systems would move away from such a standard, it is also important to re-evaluate both sides of the coin of this matter.