How Do False Memories Affect Criminal Cases?
Witness testimony plays a key role in many criminal cases. Yet eyewitness testimony can be surprisingly unreliable. This can be difficult to accept, as most people have strong emotional associations with memories of their life experiences. Yet even people who believe they have a good memory and can easily and accurately recall facts, circumstances, people, and experiences often get important details wrong. They might misremember the order of events, mistakenly combine memories of multiple events, or even adopt someone else’s version of an event as their own. And even though people’s memories are unreliable, people believe, often strongly, that their memories are correct.
Unfortunately, a witness’s false memories can lead to a wrongful conviction in a criminal case. But in the hands of a skilled criminal defense lawyer, these inaccuracies can be used to challenge the accuracy of a witness’s testimony, often with positive results.
False Memories Lead to Wrongful Convictions
Many criminal charges are based on eyewitness testimony, often with little supporting evidence. Eyewitness testimony can be powerful evidence at trial. A witness’s identification of a suspect or their description of an alleged crime can seem like an incontrovertible truth, especially in an emotionally charged case.
But in many criminal cases, a witness’s unreliable memory can cause them to identify the wrong person or incorrectly describe the events. Witnesses can also be influenced by police officers who are biased toward a particular suspect. The police may ask questions in a way that suggests a particular suspect or a particular sequence of events that can lead a witness to believe a suspect was involved in a crime. Someone facing criminal charges based on inaccurate memories can be wrongfully convicted based on inaccurate witness testimony.
Why Is Eyewitness Testimony Unreliable?
Many people do not realize just how unreliable our memories are. Scientists who study memory report that uncertainty and bias are two primary factors that can impact a witness’s ability to accurately recall what they believe they saw.
In a criminal case, uncertainty can arise from poor viewing conditions that can affect a person’s ability to observe an event properly. Factors like distance from the event, lighting, the amount of time they saw a suspect, shadows, glare, reflections, and visual obstacles can all affect a person’s ability to observe an event. In addition, distractions such as loud noises or even a person’s mental state can affect the accuracy of their recollection.
Faced with uncertainty about what they observed, the witness’s mind fills in the gaps, often without the witness’s awareness. By using prior experiences and beliefs, people can believe something occurred that did not actually occur. They might also misidentify a suspect based on race and other factors.
These same witnesses are then called upon to describe their observations or memories, often multiple times in the course of a criminal investigation. Every time they repeat their “memories”—including the incorrect facts that were substituted by their brain—the story and all of its inaccuracies are reinforced, making the witness that much more certain that their memory is correct.
False Memory Syndrome Debunked
Fortunately, there is a way to defend against false accusations. It begins by hiring criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitch and The Lebedevitch Law Firm, LLC. Attorney Lebedevitch understands police interrogation procedures and how they can introduce inaccuracies into eyewitness testimony. He knows what to look for and how to defend against false memories and regularly consults with scientific experts who can explain to a judge or jury why a witness’s testimony is inaccurate. On cross-examination, he will draw out these inaccuracies, use them to show that there is reasonable doubt as to whether a defendant committed the crime in question, and argue for a Not Guilty verdict.
The Lebedevitch Law Firm: Aggressive Criminal Defense in Fairfield, CT
Sadly, too many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit based on inaccurate witness testimony that is tainted by poor police procedures and bias. When criminal charges are based on eyewitness testimony with little to no supporting evidence, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the science behind memory, can explain it to the jury, and will use this information to successfully cross-examine witnesses and argue for a Not Guilty verdict.
The Lebedevitch Law Firm has years of experience representing people who have been charged with crimes in Connecticut. We will ensure that you receive a fair trial and will fight to challenge inaccurate evidence and keep it out of the courtroom.
The Lebedevitch Law Firm is based in Fairfield and represents people who have been charged with crimes in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Darien, Rowayton, Fairfield, Trumbull, Westport, Wilton, Weston, Danbury, New Haven, Bethany, Woodbridge, Milford, Stratford, Bridgeport, and throughout the State of Connecticut.
We offer predictable flat fees in most criminal cases. Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm today to discuss your situation and how we can help.