The United States Supreme Court made a ruling that for a defendant to be found guilty, a state must provide sufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. As part of general denial or guilt, a defendant can contend that the state has no sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty (Scheb, 2010). Although nothing can appear to be more convincing than the categorical identification of a witness, the eyewitnesses must be critically analyzed since such identifications can be mistaken. In addition, the witness confidence level should not be taken for granted to show the reliability of the evidence. The Supreme Court provides the following guidelines to decide whether eyewitnesses provide sufficient and reliable evidence to reach a conclusion that the defendant committed the crime (Scheb, 2010).
The guidelines include the credibility of any opportunity that the witness experienced the occurrence of the offense, level of the witnesses’ attention to the defendant during the period the crime was committed, the accuracy of testimony provided by the witness before identifying the perpetrator, the level of certainty expressed by the witness in providing testimony, the time interval between the witnesses’ observation and the initial identification of the defendant, discrepancies between the identification, as well as, the conditions that led to any out-of-court identification. Therefore, during decision making, the trial judge should assess the ability of the witness to view the accused at the time the crime was committed and the witnesses’ degree of attention. He should also consider the accuracy of the witness before the testimonies. The case of Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S.188, 93 S. Ct. 375 (1972) provides an example of how the Supreme Court handles eyewitnesses since they can be inaccurate and mistaken (Scheb, 2010).