Since 1989, at least 317 people have been exonerated in the U.S. as a result of post-trial DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project. The majority of these innocent prisoners were wrongfully convicted due to eyewitness misidentifications and false testimonies. While some studies argue that the human memory is to blame for wrongful accounts of a criminal event, others believe that the eyewitness identification process may lead witnesses to name an innocent person as the criminal.
Research by Loftus and Ketcham shows that many people believe that the human memory is infallible and that a person who witnesses a crime will have detailed information stored away in their long-term memory. However, evidence shows that a person’s long-term memory is susceptible to suggestion. People can add details to their memories or adjust their idea of what happened during a situation to fit a preconceived notion. Specific bits of information can be literally erased from the mind as well. This leaves a person’s account of what happened during a crime extremely unreliable in most cases.