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A jury in a Los Angeles courthouse in Alhambra recently found Jeremy Harris, a 36-year-old homeless man, not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Mr. Harris was accused of punching Gabriel Ortega Jr., 57, during a dispute in a McDonald’s restaurant on June 18, 2014. Mr. Ortega refused medical treatment and over time his condition deteriorated, ultimately leading to a coma and eventually his death.

Mr. Harris’s attorney argued that the case involved a misidentification of his client, whom he protested was innocent.

Even though witnesses believed it was Mr. Harris that they saw perpetrate this offense, and later identified him as the suspect, the defense argued they were honestly mistaken.

As part of its case, the defense presented expert testimony on the problems of eyewitness identification. A psychology professor at Claremont Graduate University explained that multiple factors can contribute to misidentification.

Eyewitness identifications are popularly believed to be irrefutable evidence. Often, however, eyewitness identifications are problematic and unreliable. In fact, misidentification is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

Many factors contribute to mistaken eyewitness identification, including the stress of the witness at the time of the incident, the presence of a weapon during the incident, the duration of time between the incident and the later identification for law enforcement, as well as suggestive police identification procedures.

Studies show that the accuracy of eyewitness identifications also diminishes when the eyewitness and the suspect are of a different race.

Eyewitness identifications are just one component amongst many in a criminal case. 

To defend against a criminal prosecution, you need an experienced attorney to evaluate all aspects of your case and to provide you with sound guidance and zealous advocacy.

If you or someone you know or love is facing criminal charges, contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to speak with a respected and experienced Orange County defense attorney.

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