Having authorities accuse you of a crime is a terrifying prospect. You may listen as investigators and prosecuting attorneys describe the evidence they believe they have against you. Perhaps most of it is circumstantial, and they need that one, clear element to tie it all together.
Then they tell you someone has come forward as a witness. This person claims to have seen you perpetrating the crime and can identify you in a lineup or from photographs police presented. If the prosecution has warned you to accept a plea deal because they have an eyewitness to testify against you, you may want to consider some of the science behind witness testimony first.
The nose on your face
You may know people who can make up fantastic stories or create art from their own imaginations. These are examples of how the human mind works. When presented with an idea, the brain can carry it to a conclusion that is most satisfying, even if it isn't factual.
Scientists believe this often happens with eyewitnesses. Rather than committing to memory incomplete or unfamiliar things they have seen, the brain may seek to create familiarity by completing the experience in its most logical way. In other words, what people remember about the crime of which you are accused may be based more on their imagination than reality.
Some other ways in which eyewitness testimony is unreliable include the following:
- Witnesses don't always look at the face of the perpetrator if something else is distracting them, such as a weapon.
- Visibility may be poor, especially if the incident happened at night.
- People at the scene may be moving about quickly.
- Witnesses are not always close enough to the crime to see clearly.
- Witnesses may not realize what is happening until after the incident is over.
Especially during this situation, the brain may complete the missing pieces for the witness, placing your face or information they may have heard on the news into the partial images in their memory.
Seeing isn't always believing
Of course, there is always the possibility that Michigan law enforcement decided early in the investigation that you were the prime suspect. Because of this, their subtle suggestions to witnesses may create false memories. Research shows that witnesses may unconsciously revise their accounts each time they have to recount the story.
During a criminal investigation, a supposed witness may have to recall the events of which police have accused you numerous times. Each time, the witness becomes more vulnerable to the suggestions of the investigators. This is why building a strong defense is your best option for protecting your freedom.