Can an eye-witness be disproved?

For those who are facing charges, an eye-witness testimony may feel like a sentence. But, these statements aren’t always accurate — even when the witness doesn’t realize it.

Here are just a few of the ways an attorney can disprove an eye-witness’ account.

Poking holes in the story

When something unexpected happens, we’re usually not totally sure of what is going on until we put the pieces together afterword. Sometimes the way a witness reconstructs the story may invent, skew or remove elements of what actually happened.

One thing an attorney can do to illustrate this is to ask clarifying questions. For example, if a witness asserts that they saw a neighbor assaulting someone, an attorney may ask how many times the witness had seen this neighbor before or to clarify which characteristics lead the witness to believe the person was their neighbor.

Suggesting another scenario

In addition to creating doubt by pointing out uncertainty, the attorney will then suggest an alternative conclusion. In the previous example, if the eye-witness had seen their neighbor only once or twice, an attorney may suggest that the witness only assumed a nearby assaulter to be their neighbor because it took place outside of the witness’ home.

In another example, a person hears a loud bang and then goes outside to see their mailbox dented. An attorney may ask the witness when the last time was that they checked their mail. This could be followed up with whether it’s possible that the mailbox was dented earlier on and simply unnoticed.

Examining the witnessbias

It is illegal to lie while under oath. However, certain biases may cause a witness to make inaccurate assumptions. For example, if a witness has made several noise complaints about their neighbor’s loud music, the witness’ negative feelings toward the neighbor may incline the witness to assume that this neighbor is the person involved in an assault happening outside of their home.

Proving a witness’ biases may also dampen the credibility of the account.