22 Dec Eyewitness Accounts Are No Match for Hard Evidence
Eyewitness Accounts Are No Match for Hard Evidence
Research has revealed that eyewitness testimony is often flawed. More than ever, attorneys must rely on hard evidence to make their case – and that’s where Buchanan Investigation Group comes in.
At the BI Group, we have a seasoned team made up of skilled private investigators in Gainesville, FL, Saint Augustine, Palm Bay, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Boca Raton and anywhere in Florida you need us to go. Our pros are meticulous when it comes to gathering evidence and documenting the facts. From video surveillance and database searches to locating hard-to-find people for trial appearances, Our Florida private investigators use a powerful mix of cutting-edge technology and old-school shoe leather to produce compelling results in every investigation.
And, unlike many eyewitnesses, when a BI Group private investigator in FL takes the stand, you can count on professional training and attention to detail to produce persuasive testimony.
The weakness of eyewitness testimony is dramatically demonstrated in the book Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, written by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, the man she falsely accused of raping her, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo. It’s the true story of the friendship that developed between a woman and the man who spent 11 years in prison because of her flawed eyewitness testimony. The dust jacket blurb reads:
“Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken– but Jennifer’s positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars.
After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face– and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.
With Picking Cotton, Jennifer and Ronald tell in their own words the harrowing details of their tragedy and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.”
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton both live in North Carolina with their families. Erin Torneo, a Los Angeles-based writer, was a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Nonfiction Fellow. The authors received the 2008 Soros Justice Media Fellowship for this title.
The case may ring some bells – the book was a New York Times bestseller when it came out in 2009 – but there are countless other cases that will never make the headlines, never be the subject of a book, a movie of the week or even an in-depth magazine story.
In a special report for CNN, Laura Wexler recounted what happened when she was called on to provide eyewitness testimony. On three occasions, she identified a man with a beard in a photo array as the man she had seen.
“As I learned from the subsequent unfolding of the case, the man I had seen on the road had no beard,” she said. “In four hours, of course, he hadn’t had time to grow one. There was no way that the photograph to which I pointed could have been a picture of the man who was under arrest.”
Wexler then goes on to explain the psychology behind her mistaken identification. “I chose the photograph of another man because meeting the suspect’s eyes in the rear-view mirror had shocked me so much — even though I had no conscious knowledge that he had a gun — that I refused to recognize his face. It was probably because, subconsciously, I never wanted to see him again,” she said.
Summing up the problem for many eyewitnesses, she said, “This is what it can mean to be a witness to violence. You are not a rational spectator. It doesn’t matter if a photograph is set in front of you that depicts the real criminal and no one influences you improperly. You can still choose an innocent man.”
Of course, sometimes witnesses are influenced. Wexler referred to a study released by the American Judicature Society in 2011. After analyzing 850 photographic lineups, researchers found that mistakes in identification were often related to how the photos of a line-up are presented. “It found if a person uninvolved in the case presents the photos one-by-one, rather than all at once, fewer mistakes are made. Another critical factor is whether the authority presenting the photos knows who the suspect is,” Wexler said.
Fortunately, Buchanan Investigation Group and its highly skilled Florida private detectives offer a range of investigative services for attorneys. Our work covers criminal cases, child welfare and custody cases and background searches. Our private investigators in Florida conduct surveillance, conduct health and lifestyle canvassing, search for assets and locate people essential to a case. Our testimony doesn’t leave anything to chance!