General Question

Snoopy's avatar

Do you think it is OK for a single eyewitness to be the ONLY evidence used to convict someone?

Asked by Snoopy (5793points) August 18th, 2008

Is it reliable enough? If you were a juror on such a case, would it be enough for you?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

24 Answers

Judi's avatar

It depends on who the eye witness is. If they knew the person that committed the crime and were close enough to have intimate details then yes. If they spent a substantial amount of time with the perpetrator then yes. The jury should be able to know if the accuser had a motive or not too.

lefteh's avatar

To me, the only time that a single-witness conviction is even close to being justifiable is when the single witness is the surviving victim.

Snoopy's avatar

@ Judi and all: Presume the eyewitness doesn’t know the person they are ID’ing.

good point Judi

heysupnm's avatar

I just watched 12 Angry Men last night and now I have reasonable doubt that it is ok…

arnbev959's avatar

I love 12 Angry Men. That’s where I stand too. If there is any reasonable doubt, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me to vote “guilty”.

No. A single eyewitness wouldn’t be good enough for me. Even if the witness were a passer-by who knew nothing about the people involved, only what he saw, it still wouldn’t be enough. People can be paid off. In especially traumatic events (if, for example, the witness witnessed a murder) their recall of the memory may be inaccurate.

Bri_L's avatar

some of the scariest studies I have read about had to do with the inaccuracy of witnesses. really creepy.

jballou's avatar

Never in a million years would the word of ONE eyewitness with no supporting evidence be enough to convict anyone. Even the most stressed, tired, overworked public defender can tear that to shreds.

lefteh's avatar

@jballou: Nope. It has happened so many times in the past, and continues to happen all over the world.

Snoopy's avatar

@jbalou I agree w/ lefteh. The author of this book was on NPR today:

http://www.amazon.com/Case-Lifetime-Criminal-Defense-Lawyers/dp/0230605281/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219094021&sr=1–1

Aside from discussing the book she spoke of how faulty eyewitness accounts are…...and that this was the single piece of evidenc that convicted this person….

MacBean's avatar

Absolutely not. Memory is a tricky thing, and highly unreliable. It’s so easy to coax people into thinking they saw something they didn’t.

marinelife's avatar

No, eyewitness testimony has been scientifically shown to be extremely unreliable.

“Article Excerpt
I. INTRODUCTION

“The vagaries of eyewitness identification are well-known; the annals of criminal law are rife with instances of mistaken identification.” (1)

”[W]e regularly sentence innocent people to death. So the underlying question remains: Considering all the attention we to do…”

JackAdams's avatar

I wonder how many innocent people are in prison right now, because the only evidence against them, was a single eyewitness? That’s really a scary thought, when you think about it, that the word of only one person could get you locked up, possibly for the rest of your natural life.

Snoopy's avatar

@Jack Very scary, indeed.

jvgr's avatar

JackAdams:“wonder how many innocent people are in prison right now, because the only evidence against them, was a single eyewitness”

Probably as many as those who were convicted on circumstantial evidence only or those who were convicted but indeed innocent (we can’t find the one who did it, but we know he’ll have a whale of a time fighting it)...

A friend was called to sit on a murder trial.
Trial done and jury goes to deliberate.
Foreman takes an initial vote (to see where they are starting from)
Majority of jury voted: Guilty (if he was arrested, he must be guilty).
So the only thing worse than living in a land of law is living in a land of law and judged by a group of morons?

Judi's avatar

How about. “Look at him! he must be guilty of something!”

Thammuz's avatar

No, not really. Unless, as somebody said before me said eyewitness is the victim, and IMO each and every testimony should be delivered while using a lie detector. Fuck that “you swear to tell the truth” shit, let’s be serious, hook them to a polygraph and let’s see how much an oath’s worth.

berry_lips's avatar

Depends how credible the witness is and if there are other convincing evidence presented (DNA, video, finger prints, etc.).

Jobes32's avatar

It would absolutely be dependent on the eye witness ( how credible, any motive involved etc). I would also need to consult with people that she would consider “character” references for herself before I would take what she says as the truth. Lets be serious, very few people in the world , tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

“Unus testus, nullus testus”. Not without some other physical evidence to back up the testimony. If that is all there was, I would vote “not guilty”, or under Scottish law “not proven”.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

My latin is rusty, got it backwards: “testus unus, testus nullus”

Pseudonym's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land you do realize that the endings on Latin words describe what part of speech the words are, therefore the order doesn’t matter… right?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Pseudonym Like I said, I’m very rusty, it’s been almost 40 years since I took Latin in school.

dutchbrossis's avatar

Nope. What if the witness was angry at that person for something else and was evil enough to lie about what they “saw”

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