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Eyewitness Testimony and Its Reliability in the Law Court

A witness’s testimony is a synthesis of information known to a person about the circumstances to be established in a criminal case, made during interrogation in the manner prescribed by law as a witness. Eyewitness testimony is the most common type of evidence during an investigation. Historically, such statements have always been a form of proof, but the procedural form questioned it in terms of trustworthiness. Despite the unreliability of such evidence as testimony due to lies or mistakes, it is essential and irreplaceable in the investigation and court.

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Testimony is primarily a procedural result, the product of a particular subject’s interaction of an investigator, or a court with a witness. The process takes place in a legally defined form with mandatory compliance with the conditions provided by law. Witness statements are not unconditional; they are not an objective form of expression of information – this is the story of a person about the circumstances that became known to him or her (Loftus, 2019). Increased demands are placed on this evidence source since it is not always easy to determine its veracity. On the one hand, a witness may be interested in knowingly false statements or be mistaken, and on the other, such errors imply violation of the law and corresponding punishment.

The reason for the false testimony of a witness may be a personal interest in a certain person’s conviction or acquittal. Moreover, its cause may be the desire to transfer own guilt to the accused and hide own illegal actions that contributed to the commission of the crime. False witness statements may be caused by the influence of the criminal, the victim, or persons close to them. Their honesty can be negatively affected by the communication of potential witnesses with each other, during their interrogation in one room at the same time.

There may be errors in testimony of conscientious witnesses, although such citizens seek to report on the known circumstances accurately. Errors in the deposition can occur when the witness perceives the facts when memorizing them, as well as during the conversation with investigator. Such errors can result from both the subjective properties of the individual and the objective circumstances of perception. For example, they can be due to defects in the hearing organs, vision, state of fright, intoxication, lighting, or too long distance, and others. Moreover, mistakes in the testimony can also result from the properties of memory and forgetting specific facts (Wixted et al., 2018). A witness can recall individual facts inaccurately and unknowingly replace real data with fictional one (Feldman, 2019). Errors can also be caused by impact from other persons discussing the events of the crime. Inaccuracies in the testimony may arise from their failure to present known facts or the witness’s improper interrogation.

A citizen becomes a witness due to an accidental combination of circumstances, but his or her role in criminal proceedings is significant since the witness is indispensable. Only he or she has the information personally received to clarify the facts of the case. Moreover, the witness’s information in court is transmitted not only by words but also by the language of the body, the manner of behavior (Hurley, 2017). Even false testimony can be a source of evidence since questions of truth are decided by the jury adequately instructed before the trial.

Thus, information obtained from a witness as evidence in court may often not be reliable. The possibility of errors and inaccuracies in the testimony, as well as the option of witnesses making false statements, cannot be ignored, and the information should be carefully checked. However, knowledge of possible distortions may be conducive to the critical perception of testimony and its evaluation to highlight the main facts. Careful preparation for all its participants’ trial can reduce the likelihood of improper testimony affecting the case critically.


Feldman, R. (2019). Psychology and your life with P.O.W.E.R learning. [VitalSource Bookshelf]. Web.

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Hurley, G. (2017). The trouble with eyewitness identification testimony in criminal cases. Trends in State Courts. Web.

Loftus, E. F. (2019). Eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 33(4), 498-503. Web.

Wixted, J. T., Mickes, L., & Fisher, R. P. (2018). Rethinking the reliability of eyewitness memory. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(3), 324-335. Web.

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