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Can a false narrative lead to a criminal conviction? 

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2023 | New Mexico State Criminal Appeals

Many criminal convictions balance solely on the word of one person. When this happens, it’s paramount that this person is truthful so that justice is rightly delivered. Unfortunately, many people lie during trials and, as a result, innocent people receive sentences that they didn’t deserve. 

Why would people lie during a criminal trial when someone’s livelihood is at risk? Sometimes it isn’t directly their fault. The brain can fabricate evidence. Here’s what you should know:

Understanding the malleable brain

Many people believe their memories work like video recordings. If people wanted to remember an event, they could simply rewind their memories and repeat a non-biased perspective. But, the brain isn’t as precise as people think. 

The truth about the brain is malleable and is that it is often very bad at retaining memories. The brain may be better at recreating single images and filling in the blank spaces to create a narrative of an event. When this happens, these memories can have inaccuracies, which may have been placed by others.

There have been studies where people have convinced others that a scenario happened. For example, an adult could be convinced that they were involved in a band when they were in school by having someone close to them describe the band. While the reality is that the adult was never in a band and had spent their school years playing a sport. 

How memory affects eyewitnesses and defendants 

The reason it’s important to understand how people may not remember events as they witnessed them is because that knowledge can affect criminal trials. Eyewitnesses may be influenced to recall a false narrative. Some defendants may even be convicted by others that they did do a crime despite having never been involved. 

False convictions are devastating to both defendants and their families. Learning more about your appeal options may help.