A representative of a nearby Macy’s told Houston police during the investigation that the company’s system, which scanned surveillance-camera footage for faces in an internal shoplifter database, found evidence that Murphy had robbed both stores, leading to his arrest.

But at the time of the robbery, his attorneys said, Murphy was in a Sacramento jail on unrelated charges, nearly 2,000 miles away. Hours after his sexual assault, prosecutors released him with all charges dropped, his attorneys said.

. . .

Police departments have said generally that they use facial matches only as an investigative lead and that criminal charges should come only in cases where other evidence can be found. But Murphy’s lawsuit suggests that it played a critical role in steering officers to him in the first place, and that the confidence authorities placed in the automated results may have “primed” witnesses and investigators to believe Murphy was at fault without substantial evidence.