Eyewitness testimony – whether in a criminal or civil trial – must be weighed carefully by all involved. On one hand, the word of someone who witnesses an event firsthand is powerful in a courtroom. On the other hand, it can be notoriously inaccurate.
Last year, researchers published an article in the journal Memory that analyzed the capability of adult and child witnesses to accurately recollect events from the past and provide reliable testimony. They concluded there were gaps in what the science of memory says about reliability and how such testimony is used in trial. It’s not that firsthand accounts aren’t valuable, but they need to be properly weighed and, if necessary, challenged.
It was the fallibility of an eyewitness account that resulted in summary judgment in favor of the defense in a trucking accident case before the Mississippi Supreme Court recently. In Moreno v. TLSL, Inc., the only one independent witness who saw the trucking accident that killed two people and seriously injured a third. Unfortunately, key elements of her recollection proved unreliable, and ultimately sunk the case. Continue reading →