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An earwitness is a person who testifies about something that they heard and did not see, someone who has firsthand knowledge of an event from hearing that event.  These people are often called into a court of law to give testimony about what they have heard. The victim or witness of a crime might not always get a clear view of the suspect, so in cases like telephone fraud or blackmail the sound of the suspect’s voice might provide the only clues to their identity. In such a situation, the police have to rely on earwitness, rather than eyewitness-evidence. The earwitness will be required to describe what the voice sounded like and may be asked to try and identify the suspect from different voices. According to Palmer v. Peyton, the voice of a suspect can be the evidence that determining a person as the committer of a crime, yet solely based on the identifier’s opinion is fraught with the possibility of misidentification, and this weakens its strength as proof of culpability. In Long V. Dutton, the court held that “Earwitness-identification, the same as eyewitness-identification, presents a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.”

[Last updated in February of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]