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Challenging Eyewitness Identification Testimony in Criminal Cases

In May 1982, Julius Ruffin was wrongfully convicted of Sexual Assault based on the eyewitness testimony of the victim. After serving twenty-one (21) years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Ruffin was finally exonerated based upon DNA evidence. Dozens of wrongful Murder convictions have also been overturned with the assistance of DNA technology, where the original conviction was based on inaccurate eyewitness testimony.

Historically, eyewitness testimony has often been considered the best evidence a prosecutor can have against a criminal defendant. Since television began, the airwaves have been filled with "aha" moments where witnesses firmly and convincingly point to the person sitting the defendant's chair and declare that that is the person who committed the crime. More recently, however, experts have called into question the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

In order to be an effective witness, a person must be able to accurately perceive the event, recall it from memory and relate those impressions to the judge and jury. Anything that affects the person's ability to perceive, recall or relate is a basis to challenge the reliability of the identification. Some of the bases to challenge the person's ability to give reliable eyewitness testimony include: physical characteristics or impairments of the witness, intoxication, lighting, visual obstructions, the amount of time that the person has to view the perpetrator, time elapsed since the offense, hypnotism and innumerable other issues. Eyewitness identifications are especially unreliable when the witness and the suspect are from different races. This is called "cross-racial identification." In many cases, courts allow experts to testify regarding the unreliability of eyewitness testimony – especially in cases involving cross-racial identification.

If you or someone you know is charged or arrested for Murder, Sexual Assault or any other criminal offense based on eyewitness testimony, it is important that you contact a knowledgeable and experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. Many factors affect the reliability of eyewitness identifications and each of those factors creates an opportunity for the defense to challenge the witness's testimony. The Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney can assist you in analyzing the facts of your case, identifying possible defenses and opportunities to challenge evidence, and can provide you with the most aggressive defense strategies possible to protect your legal rights.