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Eyewitness errors involved in wrongful convictions

For many people in Pennsylvania who maintain their innocence despite being convicted of a crime, mistaken identity and wrongful identification could be a critical issue. DNA testing has helped to prove the innocence of a number of people across the country who were convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder in which modern-day technologies have allowed new discoveries to be made in old cases. In a number of the convictions overturned through DNA tests, eyewitness misidentification of the person responsible has been a significant factor.

Eyewitness identification, while a staple of crime shows and even many actual courtroom criminal trials and police identification processes, can often be problematic according to many experts. There are some reforms to help alleviate issues that have arisen repeatedly when relying on eyewitness information. Studies show that when presented with six photos, witnesses will generally choose the person who looks closest to what they remember. However, the sight of the photos can further influence the witness' recollection so that their identification in a live lineup can be affected by the earlier photos.

Repeated identifications can boost an eyewitness' confidence in what was originally a tentative confirmation. In one case, a witness was only 70 percent sure of the identity of the perpetrator in police questioning but said they were 100 percent confident in the courtroom. Cross-racial identification can also be particularly prone to error; people tend to see those of other races as generally similar in appearance and may not properly differentiate between individuals in a lineup.

People who have been accused of a crime could face life-changing consequences, including jail or prison time, a felony criminal record and costly fines. A criminal defense attorney may work to provide representation before trial and in the courtroom that challenges dubious evidence presented by the police and prosecution.

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