Trusted Attorney Providing Knowledgeable And Dedicated Representation

Attorney Christopher T. Adams

Trusted Attorney Providing Knowledgeable And Dedicated Representation

Why witnesses may forget key details

Evidence is a pivotal aspect of all criminal cases. One of the most common forms of evidence is eyewitness testimony. Witnesses attend court and give their version of accounts. 

While witness testimony can be very valuable, it is also limited. The reality is that witnesses can forget key details, and here’s why. 

Memories get lost 

The majority of people will have heard of the term “photographic memory”. This means that an individual can recall events with almost picture-perfect accuracy. However, there is little evidence to suggest that people actually possess this, and the majority of individuals certainly do not. 

Over time, memories decay. By the time a trial arises, several months or even years may have passed. This means that a witness’s recollection of events could be highly inaccurate. 

Witnesses may be motivated to forget

Traumatic events, including alleged criminal acts, are not nice memories. Eyewitnesses can attempt to suppress such memories, either consciously or subconsciously. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as motivated forgetting. While it is a subject of much debate between psychologists, motivated forgetting is believed to impact the reliability of some eyewitness testimony. 

Memory is by no means straightforward. Rather than being replayed, memories are patched together, which can require a significant effort. Even with the best of intentions, it is nearly impossible for eyewitnesses to recount events perfectly, which means key details may be missed in criminal cases. 

If you are facing criminal charges, your defense team will have the opportunity to question witnesses. The sooner you seek legal guidance, the better your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your case.


FindLaw Network