Misidentification & Wrongful Convictions
According to the Innocence Project misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. There have been claims that misidentifcation accounts for 60% of the wrongful convictions. Other claims say misidentification accounts for up to 75% of the wrongful conviction. These numbers are probably so high because in many of the serious cases where there is forensics showing that a crime occurred the main issue becomes who committed the crime. However this number could be inflated, due to the fact that DNA evidence has been used on a lot of exonerees, which usually shows it was someone besides the defendant who committed the crime.
Eye witness identification is still a major problem today. On September 21, 2011 Troy Davis was put to death for the murder of an officer despite compelling evidence that he was not the person who committed the crime. His conviction was based almost entirely on the testimony of witnesses. The majority of those witnesses recanted their statements prior to his execution. However there was an independent witness who never recanted his statement, but evidence shows that the identification was done from a distance too far for to be reliable. The other main witness who failed to recant his testimony was the person the defense had suspected of actually committing the murder.
If you’re wondering how something like this could happen, the video on this page speaks about how Ronald Cotton, Jr. was misidentified for a rape he did not commit. The victim and officer in the case speak about how confident they were that he was the person who committed the crime. However when Ronald Cotton, Jr. was exonerated by DNA evidence, they went back and took a look on how things went wrong.