It is a typical scene in courtroom dramas: a teary-eyed witness takes the stand in a criminal trial. However, we know that television isn’t necessarily accurate. Does witness testimony count as evidence? How important is this testimony?
How vital is eyewitness testimony?
The court considers different types of evidence when hearing a trial: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence does not require interpretation or inference. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, needs to be interpreted, argued and supported with additional information to determine whether a person committed the crime.
Eyewitness testimony may fall into either of these categories. As the American Bar Association notes, the court would probably consider statements direct evidence if the witness who saw a person commit a crime firsthand.
If the witness saw someone entering a building but did not see the crime itself, the court would consider that testimony circumstantial. It requires the jury to draw inferences to conclude that they committed the crime in question.
How accurate is eyewitness testimony?
While our legal system often relies on witness testimony, witnesses cannot necessarily trust their memory of an event. An eyewitness may miss important details and pick the wrong person out of a lineup. They may hold a grudge against the defendant. A drunk witness may not properly remember what they experienced. Rain or snow may have obscured their vision. All these factors can call witness testimony into question.
If witness testimony puts you in trouble with the law, it is essential that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can examine the evidence against you and create a defense that protects your freedom and your future.