03 Oct 23

Challenging Eyewitness Testimony in Your St. Petersburg Criminal Case

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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:12 pm

Challenging Eyewitness Testimony in Your St. Petersburg Criminal Case

Eyewitness testimony can make or break a criminal case. But we all know memory isn’t perfect – and when the stakes are high, eyewitness accounts can be unreliable. So how do you challenge eyewitness testimony in your St. Petersburg criminal case?

First, understand the law. In Florida, eyewitness identifications can be admitted as evidence at trial even if the ID procedure was suggestive. But suggestiveness may still be grounds for suppression if it gave rise to a “substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification” .

Police must use fair, non-suggestive means to obtain eyewitness IDs. But sometimes they don’t. If your ID came from a showup (one suspect shown to witness), or a lineup where your photo stood out, suggestiveness may be an issue.

But suppression isn’t guaranteed. Florida uses a totality of circumstances test weighing:

  • Opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime
  • Witness’ degree of attention
  • Accuracy of witness’ prior description
  • Level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation
  • Time between crime and confrontation

So even if the procedure was suggestive, the ID may still stand if these factors lean in the state’s favor .

How to Challenge an Eyewitness ID

Challenging an eyewitness is all about reasonable doubt. You want to show the jury it’s plausible the witness is wrong or lying – raising doubt about their testimony.

There are several approaches a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer may use:

File a Motion to Suppress

If the ID procedure was suggestive, file a motion to suppress pre-trial. You’ll need to show the process caused a substantial risk of misidentification . This prevents the eyewitness from testifying about that ID at trial.

Cross-Examine the Witness

Thoroughly cross-examine the eyewitness about:

  • Lighting conditions when they saw the perpetrator
  • Distance between them
  • Any obstructions
  • Length of time they saw the perpetrator
  • Any discrepancies between their description and your appearance
  • Circumstances when they ID’d you – was it suggestive?
  • Their degree of certainty – did they express any doubt?

The goal is uncovering facts that call the reliability of the ID into question.

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Challenge Police Procedures

Question the police about ID procedures used. Were lineups properly constructed? Did officers avoid suggestive comments or actions? Problematic procedures can undermine the witness’ credibility.

Present an Alibi

An alibi witness who places you elsewhere at the time of the crime directly contradicts an eyewitness claiming you were the perpetrator.

Raise Eyewitness Reliability Issues

Present expert testimony on eyewitness memory issues like:

  • Weapons focus – attention drawn to a weapon reduces ability to ID perpetrator
  • Stress – impairs memory encoding
  • Cross-race effect – people better identify faces of their own race
  • Confidence malleability – confidence can be manipulated after the fact

This educates the jury on why eyewitnesses make mistakes.

Rebut Physical Evidence

Any physical evidence contradicting the eyewitness undermines their testimony. Like if they identified you but DNA at the scene is someone else’s.

Case Study: Florida v. Davis

In 1984, Willie Davis was convicted of rape based on the victim’s eyewitness testimony, despite having an alibi and no other evidence linking him to the crime . After 11 years in prison, he was exonerated by DNA testing proving he wasn’t the rapist.

This case shows how unreliable eyewitness memory can be. The victim was confident at trial that Davis was the attacker. Yet she was wrong, costing an innocent man over a decade of his life.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer

Eyewitness misidentifications contributed to over 70% of the more than 375 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence . So challenging eyewitness testimony is critical.

An experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney can evaluate your case and build the strongest defense, including challenging any questionable eyewitness IDs. Don’t leave your fate to unreliable memories – make the call today.