One of the bedrock principles of our criminal justice system is that the accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The collection of constitutional protections afforded to the accused is supposed to make the process fair criminal defendants. After all, it is not uncommon for criminal defendants to be falsely or even negligently accused of crimes, especially due to false eyewitness accounts.
Despite the pledge towards impartiality, wrongful convictions still plague America’s courts, particularly in Michigan. Most analysts and observers can point to a faulty eyewitness statements as a leading cause of wrongful convictions.
It usually happens in this fashion: law enforcement bring in suspects or show photos to witnesses who may (or may not) be familiar with the events leading up to the crime and urge them to make decisions about who they saw so that they can make an arrest, protect the community and put people behind bars. These witnesses may be pressured to make an identification and in most cases, genuinely want to do their civic duty, but they may not have the best recollection of what happened, or what the suspect looked like. Nevertheless, they will point someone out, hoping that their memory served them correct.
This flaw in the system is yet to be addressed on a statutory level, and the system is left to rely on witness identification guidelines that may (or may not) be followed by police departments. Because of this, those accused of crimes must have experienced criminal defense attorneys to challenge eyewitness accounts before guessing games irreparably affect a person’s life.