GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan. Imagine you’re on a jury and you are presented with evidence that a particular person committed a crime. There’s witness testimony. And then there’s video evidence. When it comes to criminal cases, video or photographic evidence is gold. After all, how hard can it be to dispute facts you can see for yourself? Based on a recent report by the Marshall Project, certain kinds of video evidence may not be all that reliable, and, in some cases, can lead to wrongful convictions.
Using the science of photogrammetry, where determinations about objects are made based on visual evidence of the environment, investigators have made estimates of the heights of suspects in videos and photos. Unfortunately, these determinations may not always be correct. For instance, if a video or photo is blurry and the identity of a criminal suspect is in question, prosecutors may seek expert opinions to determine the height of the suspect in the photo. This evidence can be compelling when presented to a jury. However, a qualified attorney like the Grand Rapids criminal defense lawyers at Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. can take a close look at methodologies used to connect a person to a particular video, photo, or crime scene.
More than ever, more aspects of our lives are recorded on video. Businesses can more readily install video cameras. Citizens can more easily record crimes on phones as they take place, and police officers more frequently wear video cameras. These videos tend to be grainy and it can be difficult to see faces at times. Forensic video analysis will likely become more frequently used in court to convict individuals of crimes. Yet, this creates a large margin for error. Forensic video analysis is not a perfect science. A small error in perspective can put an estimated suspect’s height off by as much as half a foot. In cases where height is being used to link the suspect to the video and to the scene of the crime, these errors can be devastating.
What does this mean for individuals facing criminal charges? If prosecutors or police claim they have video evidence against you, you should ask for a criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense attorney can look at the video. In some cases, the quality is so low that it results in the video either being inadmissible in court or the findings being put into question. You are innocent unless proven guilty, even if police or prosecutors claim to have video or photo evidence that you have committed a crime.
There are several ways a criminal defense lawyer can fight video or other electronic evidence gathered against you. For one, the evidence must be linked to you. Reliability and authentication can be a complex process. According to the American Bar, in some cases, electronic evidence hasn’t been properly authenticated or evaluated before it is presented. The existence of so called evidence, doesn’t mean it is accurate or even valid. Your lawyer can also look at the evidence to see whether it is admissible in court. Evidence must be gathered using legal means.
What should individuals facing criminal charges take away from this? Well, for one, understand that video evidence, like all other evidence, must be admissible and properly obtained. Secondly, video evidence must also show a clear and convincing link to the person charged with the crime. This isn’t always easy to establish in court. Qualified criminal defense lawyers, like Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. in Grand Rapids can fight to protect your rights in cases where evidence against you may be questionable.