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Why an incorrect witness might still be confident

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2022 | Criminal defense |

If you’re facing criminal charges and there’s a witness who claims that they saw the crime take place, and they give testimony saying that you did it, when you know that they are wrong in that assessment, you may be very stunned. Unfortunately, studies have found that this happens quite frequently and it’s a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

One thing that’s interesting about this process is that the witness may still be very confident that they are correct. You’ll be able to tell that they’re not lying intentionally, and so will the jury. This can make them more convincing because they do believe that what they’re saying is true, even though it’s not. How does this happen?

People tend to trust their own perceptions

The problem here is that witnesses tend to believe that they are correct and trust their own senses and perceptions of the event. They will believe what they think they saw, even if that is not what they saw. It’s harder for them to sort through things like unconscious bias or even elemental conditions that make it harder for them to make an accurate judgment.

On top of that, memories can change over time, especially the more someone thinks about a certain event. If the witness was slightly unsure at the moment but then goes over it repeatedly, they may convince themselves of what they think they saw. This feels almost the same as a real, solid memory. They will trust what their mind is telling them because it feels real. 

This can create a lot of serious complications in criminal cases, which is why it’s important to understand all of your legal options.