The eyewitness is often treated as if they are an authority on a criminal event. If they show up in court and testify that they saw the defendant commit the crime, the jury may just assume that the eyewitness — who is unconnected to the event and has no reason to lie — is correct. However, studies show that’s a very dangerous assumption to make.

It’s not that the eyewitness is lying. It’s not even that they think they may be wrong. Instead, the issue is that the eyewitness is confident despite being mistaken or giving an inaccurate testimony. Some experts even go so far as to say that the idea that an eyewitness is a terrific source of information is a complete myth.

The problem with eyewitness testimony has been exposed, at least in part, by the rise of DNA evidence. It is even more accurate and can really prove if someone was at the scene of the crime or not. When using DNA on old cases, the authorities have started finding hundreds of cases where people were wrongfully convicted. DNA proves that they were telling the truth all along when they claimed to be innocent.

In a lot of these cases, an eyewitness testified that the person was there. That testimony, which the court now knows was wrong, was a big part of the decision to convict in the first place.

If you have been accused of any crime, no matter how minor or how serious, it is important to know all of your rights and to remember that the courts do make mistakes with inaccurate evidence.