Mistaken Identification is Not Out of the Ordinary
An issue that continues to challenge Sacramento criminal defense attorneys is wrongful conviction. The most common cause of wrongful convictions is mistaken identification. If the prosecution heavily relies on a stranger’s account identifying you as the one who committed the crime, it could be very detrimental to your case. This is because witness identification is not always reliable. For example, some eyewitnesses can have a fuzzy recollection of the events that transpired. In one reported incident in Baltimore in 2002, an eyewitness identified a man in a photo lineup as the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the alleged perpetrator had actually been dead for over a year before the crime was committed.
Another reason that some misidentifications occur is the use of leading questions during eyewitness questioning. Leading questions can have the effect of distorting an eyewitness’ memory. In one research study conducted by University of Washington Affiliate Professor of Law, Elizabeth F. Loftus it was found that using suggestive language could affect how a witness remembered things. Asking witnesses “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” led to higher estimates of speed than if the question substituting a more neutral verb like hit.
Another thing that makes witness misidentification so powerful is that it is rarely reviewable during the appeals process. This issue has been highly debated by commentators and lawyers, including Sacramento criminal defense attorneys, since the early 20th century. In recent years, the legal system is showing that it is open to new and effective remedies to witness misidentification. For example, law enforcement is becoming more amenable to adopting more reliable identification procedures. Even some courts are now allowing the defense to participate in pre-trial identification procedure discussions and allowing expert testimony that exposes potential weaknesses of eyewitness identification testimony.
If you believe you may be on the receiving end of mistaken identification, please contact dedicated Sacramento criminal defense attorney Param Pabla for a case evaluation.