Eyewitness Testimony Faulty

By: Mike Vasilinda Email
By: Mike Vasilinda Email

Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Innocence Commission has been told more than 200 inmates in Florida prisons are incarcerated based upon faulty eyewitness testimony. More than two dozen inmates have been freed based on DNA evidence in recent years, but DNA isn’t always available.

Rudolph Holton was released from prison in January 2003 after spending 16 years there based on unreliable eyewitness testimony. On the day he was released he was asked, "Did you ever think this day would come…16 years sitting there?"

His response: “Yes, but I needed the right attorneys”.

In 2006 Alan Crotzer was freed after almost 25 years behind bars. DNA proved he didn’t commit the rapes that sent him to prison. He says his case proves eyewitnesses can be wrong…then added “Especially when its across racial identification involved, you know, if i said that we all look alike but from one race to another, but when you cross racial identification, identifying someone and identification thing, you can be wrong”.

Really Wrong. Evidence shows that 1 in 3 eye witness identifications are just flat out wrong.

At the innocence project, a thousand or more new cases are examined each year. President Mike Minerva is a former public defender who has examined hundreds if not thousands of eyewitnesses “Eye witness identification is really lack of opinion testimony. It’s someone’s perception of what they saw..or what they thought they saw.”

But Minerva says there are ways to improve eyewitness testimony…including not showing the witness a batch of photos at the same time. “Show a witness a group of pictures they are going to try and pick someone out” says Minerva.

Experts suggest there are at least 200 innocents behind bars because of faulty eyewitness identifications.

Experts also recommend police use detectives who are not involved in a case or who do not know who is a suspect when they are showing pictures to a witness. They also suggest showing the pictured one at a time rather than in a group.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2010 at 07:05 PM
    Libertarian, you've got to be joking. The laws need to be enforced. If you don't think cops should arrest people for smoking pot or assaulting others, then have the laws changed. but until then the cops need do their jobs and enforce the law.
  • by Libertarian on Nov 24, 2010 at 02:35 PM
    I agree with anonymous who talks about overzealous District Attorneys. They tend to be the ones causing wrongful convictions because they assume everyone brought into the system is automatically guilty. All they care about it getting a conviction rate as close to 100% as they can for the next election cycle so they may ignore things that tend to point towards innocence. The workload also causes it because the cops arrest EVERYONE - everbody needs a charge - is the mentality and they have to run them through the system as quickly as they can - especially through the Probation money machine. Also - God forbid you are poor because you will be assigned to a Public Defender with 1000 other cases going and your "representation" will probably be 1 meeting in which they advise you to take any plea deal that's offered. We need to stop arresting everyone that smokes a joint or gets into a fight and save "the system" for more serious crimes.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2010 at 10:33 AM
    Does this mean that our justice system is somehow bad? I don't necessarily think so. I'm sure it could be better, but right now at this time there is not a better system. We are talking about system that is run by people (DA's, Judges, lawyers, witnesses), and as long as we are dealing with people, mistakes will happen. We need to minimize these mistakes, and that is why we us a jury to determine guilt. The jury adds an unbiased (mostly) group of people that can look at all the evidence and weigh it. This study could probably be brought into a courtroom to try and counter an eyewitness. Maybe the jury would not weigh the eyewitness account so heavily. The bottom line is that these people were found guilty by a jury.
  • by Comment for Docker Location: Tallahassee on Nov 24, 2010 at 08:52 AM
    Docker...I like your idea but I don't know that it would work. I do like the suggestion for accountability but here's the problem: In the USA for major crimes we are judged by a panel of our peers. The judge doesn't make the guilty or not guilty decision...the jury does. And we all know that the jury is picked by the attorneys on the case. The attorney's are going to be biased as to who they pick and who they let go...therefore I don't think your accountability suggestion would work. But it is a great idea.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2010 at 08:44 AM
    Docker, Docker, Docker. Judges do not deicde guilt or innocence, Prosecuting Attorney's proscute, a jury decides guilt or innocence, the judge merely passes sentence after a jury speaks. Get rid of/punish narrowminded/overzealous PA's that present tainted evidence to juries and this will stop. An innocent person should NEVER be convicted of a crime, but that's how the world works, Jesus was convicted an crucified, all he did was make the Jews and Romans mad, guilt or innocence was never considered. Pilot, the judge refused to participate, as it was then, it is now, if a person is arrested they are automatically presumed to be guilty by the people like the pople who are defending the system on this forum.
  • by Mark Location: Tallahassee on Nov 24, 2010 at 07:38 AM
    Research and attorneys will tell you that eyewitness's accounts are the least reliable of all evidence. A person's memory is easily distorted between the time a crime occurs and trial begins to try a defendent. Some persons don't have good memories to begin with plus the stress of being interviewed can really blur reality.
  • by Paul on Nov 24, 2010 at 07:01 AM
    I once had a seargent tell me that it wasn't the army, it was the people in it. Then it occured to me that all organizations have people in them and are automatically imperfect. We still must try though.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 24, 2010 at 06:24 AM
    Don't blame the eyewitnesses. It is our justice system and. although it is not perfect, it is the best in the world. How many guilty people ore let go because of faulty eyewitness accounts? The failures in our justice system go both ways and no one is making a fuss about those who are wrongly let go.
  • by Docker Location: Tallahassee on Nov 24, 2010 at 03:21 AM
    Innocence? That's a sretch. No one is innocent. Not guilty?Perhaps.Judges should run for office just like any other politician. We should have in place a 3 strike rule for judges. 3 cases overturned and out of office.
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