Witness confidence could be key to determining innocence

In New Jersey criminal trials, prosecutors may use eyewitness identification to prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Even so, The Innocence Project names eyewitness misidentification as a leading cause of wrongful convictions. There may be one way to tell when a witness has misidentified a suspect, and that is through the confidence he or she displays.

Researchers believe that when people correctly identify a witness, they will be sure of their decision. Individuals who are sure of their decisions will pick out a culprit sooner and be more confident that they have found the right match. On the other hand, those who are unsure may spend more time mulling over their choices and display a sense of uncertainty once they have chosen someone.

The way in which the lineup is conducted also matters. Ideally, the person overseeing the lineup will not know which person is the perpetrator. In cases involving multiple suspects, only one of them should be in each lineup. There should not be any communication between the witness and police, and the witness should also be advised that there is a possibility the lineup does not contain the suspect. Furthermore, everyone in a lineup should be similar in appearance with no one person standing out more than the other.

Those charged with a crime after being picked out of a police lineup may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney. A criminal attorney may ask more questions about the lineup process and try to determine how confident the witness is about his or her decision. If the witness appears unsure, this fact might later be brought up in a court trial during cross-examinations.

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