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Eyewitness Testimony


Eyewitness: a person who actually sees some act, occurrence, or thing and can give a firsthand account of it.

Eyewitness testimony is one of the most powerful tools used by prosecutors to secure convictions. Eyewitness testimony is also the leading cause of wrongful convictions, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions that were later overturned through DNA testing.

Eyewitness testimony is viewed by many jurors as reliable but unfortunately, that is not always the case. We see the world as we want to see it and we often miss details that happen right in front of our eyes. Human error plays a major factor when we are asked to remember specific events. Do you think you would make a good eyewitness? Click here to take the selective attention test.

Why do eyewitnesses make mistakes?

  • Distance from the perpetrator
  • Lighting conditions
  • Race of the witness and race of the perpetrator  (identifications have proven to be less accurate when witnesses are identifying perpetrators of a different race)
  • Presence of a weapon during the incident
  • Stress

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Featured Article

What you see isn’t always what you get – The fallacy of eyewitness testimony By Matthew Douglas

Featured Cases of Misidentification

David Dowaliby was wrongfully convicted of murder based solely on eyewitness testimony

Photo ID: Family changes standard for conducting lineups

Fixing the System

Fixing the System: Eyewitness Identification

Police Testimony

Hillsboro police and Force Science Institute hold traffic stop study on officer memory, safety

Cops more forgetful after chases or altercations


Frontline: What Jennifer Saw – PBS Frontline. Explore a PBS series special report examining how eyewitness error contributes to wrongful convictions.