CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, November 21, 2008

APD Among Texas Police Agencies With Poor Eyewitness ID Procedures

The Austin Police Department "meets the minimum legal requirements" for the administration of live and photo lineups of criminal suspects, but "does little to ensure that its lineup procedures provide the best evidence possible in any given case," according to a new report released this morning by the non-profit The Justice Project.

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November 21, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rodney Ellis: Lowering odds that innocents end up in prison

The Dallas Morning News did the state a great service by investigating the causes of Dallas County's 19 DNA exonerations. While the cases involved men of different races and backgrounds, one thing remained the same in 95 percent of the cases – a mistaken eyewitness identification was the primary cause of the wrongful conviction.

Dallas isn't so different from the rest of the country. Of the 220 DNA exonerations nationally in the past two decades, 75 percent were due in part to a misidentification.

Who is responsible? Victims aren't. In the Dallas County cases, sexually assaulted women had the difficult task of identifying their attackers. These assaults may have occurred in the dark, by masked men or someone with a weapon. Under such terrifying conditions, "all of the mind's energy is channeled into the survival instinct," as psychologist Gary Wells noted in the series.

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October 22, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rodney Ellis: Lowering odds that innocents end up in prison

The Dallas Morning News did the state a great service by investigating the causes of Dallas County's 19 DNA exonerations. While the cases involved men of different races and backgrounds, one thing remained the same in 95 percent of the cases – a mistaken eyewitness identification was the primary cause of the wrongful conviction.

Dallas isn't so different from the rest of the country. Of the 220 DNA exonerations nationally in the past two decades, 75 percent were due in part to a misidentification.

Who is responsible? Victims aren't. In the Dallas County cases, sexually assaulted women had the difficult task of identifying their attackers. These assaults may have occurred in the dark, by masked men or someone with a weapon. Under such terrifying conditions, "all of the mind's energy is channeled into the survival instinct," as psychologist Gary Wells noted in the series.

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October 22, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eyewitnesses still play key roles in cases where DNA, other evidence is lacking

The fallibility of eyewitness testimony revealed by DNA exonerations in Dallas County and nationwide is not a relic of the past. Police and prosecutors still depend on the same discredited identification procedures to ensure convictions today.

Police use these techniques in a variety of crimes from murders to robberies. The difference between today's cases and the 19 exonerations involving sexual assaults is that often there is no DNA to ensure guilt or innocence.

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October 14, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Three Part Investigation into the 19 Wrongful Convictions in Dallas County

From For nearly a century, police and prosecutors have been on notice that relying on eyewitness testimony is risky. But that hasn't stopped them from using it to prosecute cases - sometimes sending the innocent to prison. The Dallas Morning News spent most of this year investigating Dallas County's 19 DNA exonerations as well as current felony cases to document flaws in the witness identification process.

The investigation has led to a three part series highlighting how these mistakes occur:

Part 1: How photo lineups lead to wrongful convictions

  • Rape victim studying science of memory after man dies serving wrongful sentence
  • Police have a history of violating photo lineup best practices
  • Faulty eyewitness convictions date to early 1900s

Part 2: The problems with "showups"

  • DNA exoneree was mistakenly identified twice in one day

Part 3: Police, prosecutors still embrace eyewitness testimony

Read the series. . . [Bobbi Madonna]

October 13, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eye Wtiness Identification Reform: Flaws in the ABA’s Jury Instruction on Cross-Race

At a groundbreaking two-day eye-ID litigation conference in NYC in March co-sponsored by the Eyewitness ID Reform Litigation Network, we addressed the issue of cross-race instructions, including the ABA version referred to this week at the Kansas Defenders blog. In short, while it is certainly good news that the ABA is paying attention to this issue, since the average instructions on eye-ID are woefully inadequate, the ABA instruction is far from ideal for the following reasons.

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May 21, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Interesting Innocence Case in Georgia


CrimProf Deirdre O'Connor, Director of the Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic at Emory, recently informed me of an innocence case in Georgia that has been getting a lot of national press.

The case involves Troy Davis, who is a GA death row inmate who has maintained his innocence for the past 18 years.  There was no physical evidence linking him to the shooting death of an off-duty police officer and 7 of the 9 trial witnesses (5 eyewitnesses and 2 snitches) have since recanted.  In addition, 9 other witnesses have implicated another man (Redd Coles) as the shooter.

Troy came within 24 hours of execution before the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles gave him a 90 day stay.  During the stay, the GA S. Ct. decided by a 4/3 vote to hear his appeal for an extraordinary motion for a new trial based on the recantations and affidavits of witnesses implicating Redd Coles.  Oral arguments were heard on November 13, 2007 and a ruling is expected any time between now and April 20, 2008. 

Here is an excerpt from an earlier article about the case in A man convicted of murder based on no physical evidence and solely on the eyewitness testimony, of which 7 out of the 9 witnesses have now recanted, will have his day in front of the Clemency Board Monday.

The man convicted of shooting a police officer in 1989, Troy A. Davis, is likely to be the focus of an unusual clemency hearing before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. On Monday, the board is to hear the case of Mr. Davis, 38, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the killing.

Though prosecutors have considered the case solved for nearly two decades, a chorus of eyewitnesses say the police arrested the wrong man. Now, on the eve of execution, scheduled for Tuesday, they have joined his family and his lawyers in an effort to get the courts to hear new evidence they say proves he is innocent.

With no physical evidence — the murder weapon was never found — prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses who took the stand against Mr. Davis.

But since his trial, seven of the nine have recanted or changed their testimony, saying they were harassed and pressed by investigators to lie under oath. Other witnesses have come forward identifying a different man as the shooter.

But because of a 1996 federal law intended to streamline the legal process in death penalty cases, courts have ruled it is too late in the appeals process to introduce new evidence and, so far, have refused to hear it.

Legal experts, including William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge,  a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a self-described supporter of the death penalty, have sounded the alarm over Mr. Davis’s case. They say it underscores the many ways the death penalty is unevenly and wrongly applied, particularly in the South, the region with the most death penalty cases.

“It would be intolerable to execute an innocent man,” Mr. Sessions wrote in an op-ed article for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would be equally intolerable to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by the courts or by the executive.”

Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, is expected to testify at the clemency hearing Monday.

In addition to the hearing, lawyers for Mr. Davis asked for a new trial, but on Friday, Judge Penny Haas Freesemann of Chatham County Superior Court in Savannah denied the bid. Mr. Davis’s lawyers told The Associated Press that they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Rest of Article. . .Read Washington Post's earlier article on the topic. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 13, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Florida PD's Office Calls for Eye Witness Reform

From When a bad ID by an eyewitness can land an innocent man in prison for almost 14 years, it's time to kick-start change, says Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

Trying to remove bias from what he says can be misleading police-lineup procedures, Finkelstein sent a letter last week to Broward law enforcement officials suggesting reforms. This action brings Broward in line with a growing national movement to prevent mistaken witness identification.

The DNA exoneration last month of Larry Bostic, 50, of Fort Lauderdale, prompted Finkelstein's Oct. 23 letter. A Broward judge tossed Bostic's prison sentence — 13 days shy of its completion — after DNA tests showed he was not the man who raped a Fort Lauderdale woman in 1988.

Bostic's accuser recently told an investigator she never saw her rapist. She picked Bostic out of a photo lineup, she said, because she had seen him in the neighborhood in the days before the attack.

Simple extra precautions could keep this from happening again, Finkelstein said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 29, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Georgia Man's Execution Date Remains Despite Recantations

From A Georgia man is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday for killing a police officer in 1989, even though the case against him has withered in recent years as most of the key witnesses at his trial have recanted and in some cases said they lied under pressure from police.

Prosecutors discount the significance of the recantations and argue that it is too late to present such evidence. But supporters of Troy Davis, 38, and some legal scholars say the case illustrates the dangers wrought by decades of Supreme Court decisions and new laws that have rendered the courts less likely to overturn a death sentence.

Three of four witnesses who testified at trial that Davis shot the officer have signed statements contradicting their identification of the gunman. Two other witnesses -- a fellow inmate and a neighborhood acquaintance who told police that Davis had confessed to the shooting -- have said they made it up.

Other witnesses point the finger not at Davis but at another man. Yet none has testified during his appeals because federal courts barred their testimony.

"It's getting scary," Davis said by phone last week. "They don't want to hear the new facts."

The circumstances of the case have provoked criticism beyond the usual groups that oppose the death penalty. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 16, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Forensic Science Director Gary Wells Discusses Ways to Help Stop Mistaken Witness IDs

Wells1002From  According to a recent article by  Iowa State Psych Prof and Forensic Science Director Gary Wells, mistaken eyewitness identification is the most common cause of the conviction of innocent people. Since 1992, there have been 200 definitive exonerations of people whose convictions were overturned using forensic DNA testing, and mistaken eyewitness testimony was involved in 154 of those cases.

Scientists who study psychology have examined the mistaken identification problem and made recommendations regarding critical safeguards when conducting police lineups that can help prevent these mistakes.

Although eyewitness identification evidence will never be totally free of error, eyewitness scientists have made a strong case that a substantial portion of eyewitness identification error is attributable to the ways that lineups are conducted. There are no laws dictating how police should conduct eyewitness identification procedures. Instead, each police jurisdiction (there are over 14,000 independent law enforcement agencies in the U.S.) sets its own policies and procedures. Many police agencies have no written procedures or policies for how lineups should be conducted.

Note that most lineups are actually done with photographs, not live lineups. When live lineups are conducted, they often are of a “confirmatory” type in the sense that the eyewitness has already identified the suspect from a photo lineup and hence are mere formalities.

In general, reform procedures that mesh science and practice include the following features:

  • Instructions to the eyewitness prior to the lineup that stress the fact that the actual perpetrator might not be in the lineup and that they should not guess. (Thereby helping relieve the witness of the natural pressures to make an identification.)
  • The use of a minimum of five lineup fillers who fit the description of the perpetrator. (Thereby helping assure that the person the police suspect does not stand out as the obvious choice.)
  • The use of a lineup administrator other than the case detective, a procedure known as a double-blind lineup. This independent administrator is someone who does not know which person is the person of interest and which ones are fillers. (This important feature of a properly-administered lineup assures that the person who administers the lineup to the eyewitness does not inadvertently cue the witness as to the “correct” choice or influence the certainty of the eyewitness.)
  • A formal securing of a statement from the witness as to how certain s/he is at the time of the identification. This certainty statement, secured at the time of the identification by the independent administrator, remains a matter of record that is discoverable at trial. (The natural tendency is for eyewitnesses to become highly certain later about their identification (e.g., at trial) after being briefed by police and prosecutors. Their certainty, however, should be based on their own assessment of their memory at the time of identification, not by pressures that occur later.)
  • Clear records must be maintained with regard to all lineups, not just those that result in a witness identifying the person who was the focus of the investigation. (In many cases there are multiple witnesses and police fail to fully document what the non-identifying witnesses said or did when they viewed the lineup.)

At this time, it is estimated that less than 15% of police jurisdictions have made substantial changes to their lineup procedures to align those procedures with the best science and practices. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 18, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 23, 2007

More States Consider Line Up Reforms

From A continuing wave of exonerations and revelations about wrongful convictions linked to false eyewitness identification has led more states to consider reforming their lineup procedures with new guidelines and legislation.

A key factor is the order in which lineups should be shown as more states consider whether to replace the traditional simultaneous method with the sequential procedure, during which people or photographs are shown one after another rather than all at once.

Another common feature of the new procedures calls for a "blind" lineup, meaning the person administering it does not know who the suspect is. A movement to reform eyewitness identification procedures has been building in momentum for the last few years.

A reform bill in West Virginia has been awaiting the governor's approval and was one of 16 bills on eyewitness identification proposed in 10 states this legislative session, said Scott Ehlers, state legislative affairs director for the Washington-based National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In Illinois, a civil lawsuit over the issue was filed in February. And in New Mexico, an eyewitness identification bill was proposed for the first time this year.

"Bills seem to have been going further this year than in the past," Ehlers said. "Exonerations and the wrongful convictions: I think that is really pushing the issue." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 23, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Add the 198th Name to the List of People Exonerated Through DNA Evidence

Yesterday, the Innocence Project, working with the Missouri State Public Defender's Office, exonerated Antonio Beaver of his first-degree robbery conviction. DNA evidence proved that Antonio did not commit a violent carjacking near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis for which he was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Beaver’s exoneration comes a decade after he was convicted and more than five years after he began seeking DNA testing to prove his innocence.

Beaver's story:  In August 1996, a man approached a woman’s car as she parked at the Gateway Arch. He told her he was the attendant in the parking lot and that she needed to move her car. As she got back into the car, he threatened her with a screwdriver; a struggle ensued, and the man was cut and bled on the interior of the car. The victim, fearing for her life, stopped fighting and told the man to take her car. Later, she provided a detailed description to police and helped prepare a composite sketch. Although Beaver did not match the victim’s description or the sketch, she ultimately identified him during a substantially flawed police lineup. Although fingerprints in the car (including on the rearview mirror) came from neither Beaver nor the victim, he was tried and convicted in April 1997.

Beaver is the fifth St. Louis County man in five years exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongfully convicted based on eyewitness misidentification. [Michele Berry]

March 30, 2007 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy, Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Newark Has Difficulties Convicting in Eyewitness Cases

From are at least 14 recent murders in Newark in which witnesses have clearly identified the killers but no charges have been filed, infuriating local police commanders and victims’ relatives.

In 8 of the 14 cases, according to court documents and police reports, there was more than one witness; in two of them, off-duty police officers were among those identifying the suspects. But in a DNA era, these are cases with little or no physical evidence, and they often involve witnesses whose credibility could be compromised by criminal history or drug problems, or both.

“No one wants to solve these cases and lock up the killers in these cases more than we do,” the county prosecutor, Paula T. Dow, said in a recent interview. “But we have to weigh the evidence and move forward only if we believe that the witnesses are credible and that they’ll be there to testify at trial.”

The tension between the police and prosecutors here over the evolving standards of evidence required to authorize arrest warrants is a stark example of the profound effect witness intimidation is having on the criminal justice system in New Jersey and across the country.

Surveys conducted by the National Youth Gang Center, which is financed by the federal Department of Justice, have found that 88 percent of urban prosecutors describe witness intimidation as a serious problem.

In both Baltimore and Boston, where “stop snitching” campaigns by rap artists and gang leaders have urged city residents not to cooperate with the authorities, prosecutors estimate that witnesses face some sort of intimidation in 80 percent of all homicide cases Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 1, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Georgia Changes Photo Line-up Procedures in Response to Wrongly Convicted Man's Exoneration

From More than two decades ago, a sexual-assault victim from Sandy Springs, Ga., pointed to a picture of her attacker in a photo lineup. "From zero to 100 percent, how sure are you?" a detective asked. "I'm 120 percent sure," the woman said, as stated in court testimony.

It now appears that she was 100 percent wrong, according to the Fulton County district attorney. The result of DNA testing led to the release of Willie "Pete" Williams on Jan. 23 after nearly 22 years in a south Georgia prison for a crime he did not commit. Her mistake and his exoneration have revived a debate about the accuracy of eyewitness identifications – and their central role in persuading juries to convict.

But even as a handful of police departments from Boston to Minneapolis have voluntarily changed lineup procedures to help reduce such tragic errors, resistance to top-down reform from the majority of American police chiefs and prosecutors is pushing the debate into the legislative chamber. Last week, Georgia introduced a bill that would scrap the side-by-side police lineup, and would instead require police departments to present suspects one by one – either in person or by photo. Georgia joins Texas, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Vermont, which have similar bills pending.

Some experts argue that the new procedure limits inaccurate "relative judgments" that victims can make during a lineup. But police counter that they do not want to be forced to use a specific procedure that they say would undermine proven techniques detectives use.

"You can start to see a move now in policymaking and the decisions that prosecutors are making about how they elicit evidence," says Professor Christian Meissner, director of the Investigative Interviewing Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at El Paso. "The involvement of legislatures is an attempt to get prosecutors to realize that these are real issues that need to be addressed."

Since 1992, 194 people have been exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence, and some 75 percent of the convictions involved at least one faulty eyewitness identification, according to the Innocence Project, which works to clear those who are falsely imprisoned. A separate study published by the University of Michigan in 2004 found that 90 percent of mistakes that led to false convictions in rape cases were caused by eyewitness errors. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 6, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Elon University School of Law Hosts Eyewitness Identification Meeting

The Elon University School of Law recently hosted a meeting of national experts on eyewitness identification. The meeting was organized by the American Judicature Society’s Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy.

At the meeting, the scientists contributed their expertise to the development of field studies to test the effectiveness of procedures that have improved the accuracy of eyewitness identification in controlled lab studies conducted by social scientists.

Mistaken identification was the leading cause of wrongful conviction in more than 75 percent of the 183 DNA exonerations in the United States to date. Through laboratory studies, scientists have identified procedural controls which may increase the reliability of eyewitness identifications, but there have been few scientifically sound field studies that evaluate the procedures in actual police practice. The AJS Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy hopes the meeting will help to design controlled field studies that can test the procedures in practice.

The field study protocols, as well as their results, will be reviewed by the AJS Commission on Forensic Science and Public Policy, a commission of leading scientists, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement professionals. The American Judicature Society established the Institute and appointed the Commission to address critical issues at the intersection of science and the law. The Commission is co-chaired by former Attorney General Janet Reno, former FBI director William Webster, and leading scientist Steve Feinberg of Carnegie Mellon University. [Mark Godsey]

September 9, 2006 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

BC CrimProf Robert Bloom at ABA

Bcbloom Boston College CrimProf Robert Bloom served as a panelist for the Eyewitnesses and Informants discussion at the recent American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Fall Meeting on November 4th in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Eyewitnesses and Informants Panel explored both the social scientific research and the on-the-ground reform efforts that have been made to minimize the risks of wrongful convictions being caused by mistaken eyewitness identifications and flawed informants’ testimony.

The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Fall Meeting is the national gathering place for prosecutors, defense lawyers, academics, judges and others involved in criminal justice. Because the Section gathers the perspectives of all the players in the criminal justice field, the conference provides a unique opportunity to obtain balanced knowledge and insight into the complex criminal justice issues that face the nation.

November 9, 2005 in CrimProfs, Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Connecticut: Law Enforcement Agencies Propose New Eyewitness ID Procedures

Leaders in Connecticut's law enforcement community have devised changes to the State's eyewitness ID procedures.  These changes will offer more expansive procedural protection than the procedure the State's Supreme Court urged in a decision last week--that police tell future witnesses, who are about to view a suspect or a photo array, that the perpetrator of the crime "may or may not" be present.

From the Journal Inquirer on "[T]he development of the new procedures has been going on for months and involves the 13 regional state's attorneys, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, and officials in charge of the state-police and municipal-police academies.

Even before the Supreme Court issued its decision [last] week in a case involving the knifepoint robbery of a pedestrian on an East Hartford street, the law-enforcement group had reached a consensus on a set of changes that includes the one urged by the high court...While refusing to overturn the robbery conviction of former Hartford resident Laquan Ledbetter, 22, the Supreme Court strongly suggested that police tell future witnesses who are about to view a suspect or a photo array that the perpetrator of the crime "may or may not" be present.

If police fail to do so, the court ruled, the trial judge must instruct the jury that the approach taken 'tends to increase the probability of misidentification.'  Psychological research has shown that witnesses tend to pick the person in a photo array who looks most like the criminal. The warning that the criminal "may or may not" be present is designed to reduce that tendency.

Morano, [the Chief State's Attorney,] said the 'may or may not' warning was one of the changes the law-enforcement group had decided on before the Supreme Court decision. If police follow the new procedure consistently, he said, there will be no need for any trial judge to give the cautionary jury instruction set out in the decision.

Standard instructions

Under the new procedure, Morano said, a police officer showing a suspect or photo array to an eyewitness will be expected to read a set of standard statements from a form, just as police read the famous Miranda warnings to suspects before interrogating them.

He said those statements will include reminders that it is as important to clear innocent people as to identify the guilty and that people's appearance can change due to changes such as hair styles -- and the statement that the perpetrator may or may not be present. In addition, the officer will say that police will continue to investigate the incident "whether you identify someone or not."

The form also will include a space for the officer to write down any statements the witness makes while viewing the suspect or the photo array. The witness will subsequently be asked to sign the form to confirm what was said.

In addition, the form will include instructions to the officer: not to use words, gestures, or expressions that indicate who the suspect is; to stand outside the field of view of the witness, if practical, in order to avoid giving even subtle, nonverbal feedback; and to avoid making any comment on an identification made by the witness.

The last instruction is designed to avoid the following problem, which has been uncovered by psychological research:

Witnesses who are told they have picked the suspect from a photo array tend to become more confident in the identification. Judges and juries, in turn, give great weight to the confidence of the witness in deciding whether to believe the identification."  Other proposed procedures were rejected. More... [Mark Godsey]

September 27, 2005 in Eyewitness Identification, Law Enforcement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

GA Supreme Court Negates "Certainty" Instruction in Eyewitness ID Cases

The Supreme Court of Georgia, relying on scientific studies on the lack of reliability of eyewitness identifications, recently held in Brodes v. State:  "Appellate courts have a responsibility to look forward, and a legal concept's longevity should not be extended when it is established that it is no longer appropriate. When identification is an essential issue at trial, appropriate guidelines focusing the jury's attention on how to analyze and consider the factual issues with regard to the reliability of a witness's identification of a defendant as the perpetrator are critical. In light of the scientifically-documented lack of correlation between a witness's certainty in his or her identification of someone as the perpetrator of a crime and the accuracy of that identification, and the critical importance of accurate jury instructions as "the lamp to guide the jury's feet in journeying through the testimony in search of a legal verdict," we can no longer endorse an instruction authorizing jurors to consider the witness's certainty in his/her identification as a factor to be used in deciding the reliability of that identification. Accordingly, we advise trial courts to refrain from informing jurors they may consider a witness's level of certainty when instructing them on the factors that may be considered in deciding the reliability of that identification."  [Mark Godsey, hat tip to Tulane CrimProf Pam Metzger]

June 22, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy, Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Stories of Interest on NPR

NPR has posted two new stories of interest to CrimProfs:

Police Lineups Get a Second Look:  Twenty-five years of research by professor Gary Wells of Iowa State University is exposing the unreliability of witnesses asked to ID criminals in police lineups. Many local police departments are beginning to change the way they conduct lineups. Wells describes a new technique: the sequential lineup.  Listen to story here

Former Felons Seek to Regain Voting Rights:  A national movement is under way to give people convicted of felonies a better chance to regain their right to vote. A recent report shows that many states are still resistant to streamlining the process. And as the 2000 election in Florida demonstrated, there are political implications.  Listen to story here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

CrimProf Scheck: We Are On Verge of Historic Reforms in Eyewitness Identification Procedures

Scheckp_1Cardoza CrimProf Barry Scheck, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, writes this month's column in the magazine Champion"Soon, the single greatest cause of the conviction of the innocent -- mistaken eyewitness identification -- will be significantly redressed by a series of historic reforms: We will see photo arrays and lineups conducted by a blinded examiner (the person running the procedure doesn't know the identity of the suspect); proper admonitions to witnesses that the real perpetrator may not be present; proper selection of fillers so they meet the description of the perpetrator, not the suspect; confidence statements from witnesses at the time of identification in their own words; and sequential presentation at identification procedures with an adequate number of fillers (at least five). Based on strong scientific proof that these reforms substantially reduce error and increase the capacity of police to find the real assailant, courts, legislatures, and prosecutors will adopt them because it's just good law enforcement. But they will also act because there is a constitutional imperative at work: The heart of the Supreme Court's due process jurisprudence in this area is to prohibit systemic practices that unnecessarily increase error.
     These reforms will move on three different tracks simultaneously. On one track, state and federal courts will reverse and revise Manson v. Braithwaite, instructing juries that failure to follow procedures that demonstrably reduce error must be held against the prosecution. Similarly, courts at pre-trial hearings will consider expert testimony and assess the taint from improper suggestiveness in light of new scientific evidence. On a second track, where trains are already in motion, police and prosecutors will voluntarily implement these reforms, following the lead of New Jersey, North Carolina, Minneapolis, Boston, Santa Clara (Calif.), and Northhampton (Mass.). And finally, state legislatures and Congress will follow the lead of Illinois, as well as suggestions from the American Bar Association, and enact bills funding pilot projects, research, and training."  Full column here.  [Mark Godsey]

December 23, 2004 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)