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The Impact of Eyewitnesses in Criminal Cases

Updated: Aug 24, 2023 @ 6:05 am

Less than 1 minute Reading Time: Minutes

The impact of eyewitness testimony can have a major impact on the outcome of a criminal case. Many of our clients have asked us if eyewitness testimony matters and how it might impact their cases.

Well, eyewitness testimony does matter, and it can impact your case in multiple ways. Whether the potential impact is positive or negative, it’s good to know the ins and outs of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases. It’s also good to have an understanding of how Texas law provides avenues for vetting such testimony.

If you’re facing criminal charges in Brazoria County on the account of an eyewitness, our law firm can help. Since 1991, Mr. Nelson has been at the forefront of the Southeast Texas criminal law bar. To schedule your free case review and sit down and talk with Mr. Nelson, call us 24/7 at 979-267-6081.

The Theoretical Weight of an Eyewitness Account

The Constitution of the United States, the Sixth Amendment, ensures the accused’s right to confront their accuser. Yet, how does this principle play out when the accuser is an eyewitness, possibly fallible in their recollection?

The Human Element

Memory is Not Infallible

It’s a scientific reality: human memory is not a flawless recorder of events.

Studies, such as those by the Innocence Project, illustrate that wrongful convictions often hinge on mistaken eyewitness identifications.

In Brazoria County, where Attorneys Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock tirelessly fight for the accused, this is a pivotal concern. The stakes are high, and understanding the fallibility of human memory is indispensable in criminal defense.

Procedural Precautions

Texas law has some provisions to address these issues.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 38.20 outlines stringent steps for admitting eyewitness testimony. It mandates a pretrial hearing to scrutinize the methods through which the identification was obtained. This acknowledges that eyewitness testimony, while powerful, is not immune to critical examination.

The Double-Edged Sword of Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness testimony can be a double-edged sword as it can both convict and exonerate a defendant.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets the stage for certain types of eyewitness testimony to be used in a criminal trial. However, it demands corroborative evidence in specific cases. Thus, making it harder to secure a conviction based solely on an eyewitness’s word.

These standards apply whether the witness’s account supports or opposes the defendant. Therefore, it’s important for criminal defense lawyers to master the art of the cross-exam.

Cross-Examination Matters

For experienced defense criminal defense attorneys like Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock who take pride in serving our clients in Brazoria, Alvin, Pearland, Angleton, and throughout Brazoria County, cross-examining an eyewitness is an obvious strategy.

It’s not about attacking the witness’s credibility outright but highlighting potential inconsistencies and influences that might have spurred the witness’s testimony.

A seasoned lawyer knows the power lies in the details. It’s our job to dig through’em.

Eyewitness Testimony

A Tool, Not the Final Say

Eyewitness testimony are tools of the criminal justice process—not conclusive verdicts.

They are parts of a mosaic that can illustrate guilt or innocence. Recognizing this, the court in State v. Chalmers affirmed that a conviction based solely on eyewitness testimony can be legally sufficient, but it is not beyond scrutiny.

This enshrines a healthy skepticism within the legal framework. It affirms that while eyewitnesses are important, they’re not infallible arbiters of truth.

Changes in Texas Law

The Pursuit of Justice

In 2011, Texas was the first state to pass legislation, Senate Bill 121, regarding the procedures law enforcement must follow during lineups. This law is intended to reduce the risk of wrongful convictions based on eyewitness misidentifications.

Its passage was a monumental stride towards justice. Actions like this by state legislatures emphasize that the law is adaptable. It also shows that lawmakers are constantly in pursuit of making the legal system as close to fair as possible.

We’re On the Front Lines of Criminal Justice

Brazoria County Criminal Defense Lawyers

In Brazoria County, Attorneys Tad Nelson & Amber Spurlock are on the front lines of the criminal defense bar. Our work isn’t just about understanding the law; it’s about understanding people—witnesses, jurors, judges—and sculpting a narrative that resonates with justice.

If you live in Angleton, Alvin, Pearland or elsewhere in Brazoria County and you’re seeking qualified legal representation, contact us today.

Call our law firm 24/7 at 979-267-6081.

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