Issue Brief: Eyewitness Identification

  • October 01, 2007

Eyewitness identification is a critical tool for apprehending and prosecuting criminals. Nonetheless, groundbreaking research on eyewitness memory over the past three decades, as well as increasing attention to the problems in the cases of wrongfully convicted individuals, has brought the fallibility of eyewitness memory to the fore.

Eyewitness misidentification is widely recognized as the leading cause of wrongful conviction in the United States, accounting for more wrongful convictions than all other causes combined.

Since 1989, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate nearly 200 individuals who were wrongfully convicted. Of those, approximately 75 percent were convicted on evidence that included inaccurate and faulty eyewitness identifications.  In some cases, these innocent individuals were misidentified by more than one eyewitness.

For more information on this topic, see these other reports from The Justice Project Education Fund's National Agenda for Reform:  Expanded Discovery in Criminal CasesElectronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations and Jailhouse Snitch Testimony.