Saturday, December 4, 2010
Eyewitness Testimony - Not Always What We Assume
The Cuyahoga Court of Appeals did something recently that Courts generally do not do - toss out eyewitness testimony as being "unreliable." Courts almost always leave it to the jury (and the jury alone) as to whether an eyewitness could have perceived the perpetrator at the scene of the crime and then later identify a perpetrator at trial. However, under Ohio law, there are some rules/guidelines that Courts must evaluate before permitting just any type of witness identification at trial (e.g. how long the witness had to view the guy, the witness's degree of attention at the scene of the crime, the witness's description of the guy to the police at the scene of the crime, and the witness's confidence on the identification). The Court must also assess how the police set up the line-up where the witness identifies the guy to make sure that the line-up process was not unduly suggestive. In State v. Farrow, the Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's exclusion of eyewitness testimony. This is very rare.