What role does eyewitness testimony play in a criminal trial? Unfortunately, a recent law journal article suggests that this type of evidence is both unreliable and incredibly damaging, accounting for around one-third of wrongful convictions. That article relied on data from the National Registry of Exonerations.

Yet even testimony from the accused might be inaccurate. According to the article, a surprising number of criminal defendants confess to crimes they never committed. Possible reasons for a false confession might be a desire to end aggressive prosecutorial tactics or intimidating police interrogations, or even simple emotional exhaustion. In other cases, a confession might be broader than intended, as in the case where an accused individual was charged with multiple offenses. 

Given the advances in forensic science, readers might assume that DNA evidence has taken the lead in criminal prosecutions. Yet even that type of evidence can be unreliable when the chain of evidence, or its handling, were improper. 

The truth is that anyone arrested for an alleged criminal offense should utilize his or her right to an attorney at the earliest opportunity. Prosecutors aren’t the only officials with discretion in how criminal cases are handled. Police may have influence over which witnesses are interviewed or which evidentiary leads are pursued.

An attorney that focuses on criminal defense can review the entire evidentiary record, looking for both instances of procedural error or the potential concealment of exonerating evidence. Serious consequences can result if you have been accused of a crime. An attorney can help you take all of the steps needed to best prepare a strong defense.

Source: Washington Post, “The GOP’s justice reform opportunity,” George F. Will, Oct. 23, 2015