“Do you Recognize the Citizen Accused?” – On Eyewitnesses and a Developing Technology


Vinny Gambini, from the movie My Cousin Vinny, in court testing the reliability of a witness’s eyewitness testimony.

The main purpose of this post is to highlight something that many readers might be unaware of, the questionable reliability of eyewitness testimony.  Then we will conclude with a little nugget of something innovative and new, a developing technology that hopefully will not repeat (or make worse) the mistake of our blind trust in eyewitness testimony (pun intended, sorry).

It has been a long-held concern among many in the legal field that eye-witness testimony, often deemed conclusive by juries, is also among the LEAST reliable types of testimony.  According to The Innocence Project, “[e]yewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in nearly 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing” (see http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/Eyewitness-Misidentification.php, accessed at 3:22 p.m., E.S.T., on 03/28/2014).  Indeed, one need only do a quick Google search to find an avalanche of posts about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, such as “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts,” “How Reliable is Eyewitness Testimony?,” and “Eyewitness Testimony.”

Well now a new technology seems to be arising where one can “Create 3D-Printed Mugshots Solely from DNA” (see “We Can Create 3D-Printed Mugshots Solely from DNA“).


Reported in the article is that the technique is already being attempted to find a lead for a crime in Pennsylvania, but learning of this developing technology immediately raises many thoughts and questions in this author’s mind.  Aside from how amazing it is that we might could conceivably have this technology now or in the near future, worries arise as to how reliable it will be.  Will it repeat the horrible wrongful convictions that have resulted from eyewitness testimony and will it be used together with eyewitness testimony so that one may make the other more credible?  Or might this potential technology prove useless and die out?  Something many of you probably find interesting, and that some of you might follow with curiosity.


The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation.  Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.

The information on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and you should consult with an attorney in your state about the specific details of your case. Nothing on this site or in correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship and information you send prior to the forming of an attorney-client relationship may not be kept confidential. Neither this site nor correspondence with Nicholas Lee or his agents shall be construed as a promise nor as undertaking a duty regarding you or your case. Nicholas Lee and his agents are not retained as your legal counsel unless a valid written Representation Agreement is reached regarding your specific case.

Copyright © 2014. Nicholas W. Lee, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved. This site’s content may not be used without the prior written consent of Nicholas Lee.


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