Some may assume that eyewitness testimony would represent solid evidence in a South Carolina courtroom, but that is not always the case. In certain proceedings, eyewitness testimony could be far weaker than believed. When the evidence in a criminal trial is weak, a defense strategy could raise reasonable doubts about a defendant’s guilt.
Issues with eyewitnesses
A significant problem with eyewitness testimony centers on witnesses making statements about what they believe they saw vs. what truly happened. In other words, an eyewitness may perceive things that are not accurate. For example, a witness with poor eyesight or someone trying to figure out what they saw from a distance at night may undermine claims about what the person perceived. An effective criminal defense strategy might point out these issues.
Other factors could cast doubt on an eyewitness’s credibility. A person’s mental state might impact what they believe they saw. Persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol might not be credible witnesses. Various issues that undermine an eyewitness’s credibility could be apparent, but law enforcement officials may press forward, hoping to make an arrest.
Dealing with false claims
Unfortunately, there are cases where the accused faces prosecution, even with weak evidence. There have been numerous examples of people convicted and later freed on appeal or through a new trial with revelations of misconduct or new evidence arising. And yes, misconduct by law enforcement could play a role in the investigation.
The police might receive false information from a supposedly legitimate source. A witness could provide investigators with false statements because they have a personal issue with the defendant. Others may try to deflect blame from themselves. Regardless, such eyewitness evidence would lose credibility. The court could even refer witnesses who make false statements to the district attorney for prosecution.
The police could coerce a witness to make statements. And an inappropriate decision to close the case could lead to guiding witnesses into false statements. Sometimes, this behavior could extend to police lineups where a witness picks a suspect with nothing to do with the crime.