Eyewitness testimony can be influenced by several factors

Eyewitness testimony is often considered as powerful evidence but it can be greatly influenced by several conditions.

After spending 14 years in prison on a conviction for kidnapping, burglary and rape, a North Carolina man was freed when DNA testing showed he was not the perpetrator. According to the Innocence Project, the conviction was based on the sole testimony of the two victims, who were teenagers at the time. They testified that he was the man who held them at knifepoint and had sexually assaulted them. The man had been in the girls' home before and was a previous resident of their neighborhood.

Courts and juries are often of the opinion that an eyewitness testimony is solid evidence pointing to a person's guilt. However, recently it has come under heavy scrutiny after DNA testing has led to hundreds of exonerations across the country. In 70 percent of those cases, eyewitness testimony was found to be the main form of evidence against the person convicted.

How do eyewitness victims get it wrong?

According to The Washington Post, human memory is fallible and it can be influenced by several factors. These factors include the following:

•· Stress - when people are stressed, their mind may jump to conclusions or miss key identification factors. Stress can also distort a person's memories or insert a familiar face in an effort to make sense of what is occurring.

•· Lighting - A red car may look red in bright daylight but then appear to be a burgundy or pink color at night. Lighting has a great effect on the mind and can give people and events a different appearance.

•· The presence of a weapon - studies have shown that when a perpetrator is holding a weapon, the victim's focus will be on the weapon, not the face behind it.

•· Biases - While people don't want to admit it, if they have a bias against a specific race or nationality, their mind may jump to an incorrect identification. This means someone who doesn't like Mexicans may believe the attacker was Mexican if the person had an accent or darker skin.

Additionally, the length of time, a person's age and even the influence of others may lead a witness to believe that they saw something which was never there. If there were more than one perpetrator at the scene, the amount of activity going on may also lead to incorrect details and identification.

Role of law enforcement

It is assumed that law enforcement agencies all have standardized procedures and guidelines when it comes to handling eyewitnesses. However, USA today states that this is not the case. A report conducted on police agencies revealed that 64 percent did not have any policy in writing for its officers to follow in regards to photo displays and 84 percent did not have any written guidelines on how lineups should be conducted.

When people in Lincolnton are accused of committing a crime, they face severe penalties if convicted of that crime. Therefore, it would be in their best interest to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney.