How can you tell if an eyewitness is lying?
You can’t. Nobody can. Eyewitness credibility is frequently called into question in criminal cases when police are under serious pressure to get a conviction but the actual forensic evidence tying a crime scene together is thin.
Despite the lack of forensics, eyewitnesses who are guilty of perjuring themselves on the stand still get believed by juries — to the detriment of the innocent person who stands accused. Perhaps the accused has a criminal history, making it easy for jurors to assume that he or she “must be” guilty of the newest accusation. In other cases, where the defendant has never been in trouble with the law, jurors may simply not realize that there are all sorts of motives for an eyewitness to lie:
— A criminal charge that is being buried in exchange for the testimony the prosecution wants to hear
— Fear that they will be charged with a crime if they don’t testify as ordered, which is nurtured into being by police officers who are unafraid of terrorizing an innocent witness
— Manipulation by the police that leads them to believe that they are putting a dangerous criminal behind bars and protecting the public
— Outright greed, in the case of some witnesses who have admitted that they took money to testify the way they were told
— Self-preservation, from witnesses who want to trade their testimony for a lighter sentence for their own criminal acts
Years later, some of those witnesses decide that they can’t live with the guilt of putting an innocent man or woman behind bars and they come forward to recant.
Suddenly, the cynics are everywhere — courthouse observers refer to changing testimonies as “testilying,” and Judges view the new testimony with suspicion or scorn — especially if it puts a shadow over a police officer who has a long and exemplary career.
If you’ve been the victim of false eyewitness testimony, you need a lawyer who is familiar with the methods used to win new trials, overturn convictions and exonerate the convicted.
For more information on how our firm approaches a wrongful conviction claim, please visit our page.