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Eye-witness testimony not as accurate as many in Oregon think

Most people do and see a lot of things during the day. Oregon residents are busy and many are constantly on the go. People may not always be paying attention to the details around them. When a crime occurs, these details can be very important in determining what happened and how. In most cases, people do not know which details are going to be important until after the crime occurs. Despite the fact that someone was present during a particular situation, they may not have noticed every important aspect.

Yet, Oregon police and prosecutors often rely on eye-witness testimony to solve crimes. People's accounts are used in court as evidence that a person is guilty of a crime, or to explain a certain aspect of that crime. While many people may trust these accounts, some criminal defense experts are saying that eye-witness accounts may not be very accurate. Even Oregon courts have rejected the use of eye-witness testimony under certain conditions.

Experts say that, although people may appear genuine on the witness stand, their accounts may not be that accurate. While they may not be outright lying, they may be mistaken. Courts have made it clear -- especially in the recent Oregon case State v. Lawson -- that people's memory can be easily contaminated if proper precautions are not taken. When their memory is contaminated, it is no longer completely accurate and may not be admissible in court.

People facing criminal charges in Oregon should ensure that contaminated eye-witness testimony is not being used against them. By challenging the validity of the eye-witness's statements and other evidence, defendants may find that they can successfully fight the charges.

Source: The Oregonian, "Steve Duin: Is the Samuel Lawson decision a game-changer on memory and eyewitness testimony?," Steve Duin, Sep. 18, 2013

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