Identifying errors in the eyewitness identification process

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2020 | Firm News

Americans naturally believe that people behind bars are guilty of committing a crime. Surprisingly, this is not always the case. The U.S.Judicial System has exonerated more than 360 people throughout the nation after further testing of DNA evidence showed they were innocent, according to the Innocence Project. More than 70% of those cases involved eyewitness misidentification as a factor involved in the wrongful conviction and incarceration.

Part of the problem lies in the eyewitness identification process. Procedural flaws and administrator errors can prompt a witness to select the wrong person from the lineup. This wrongful selection greatly increases the chance that the judge and/or jury presiding over the case will find the innocent defendant guilty as charged.

Errors can occur when any of the following happens:

  • Lineup administrators mislead witnesses with unintentional verbal or physical queues
  • People placed as fillers in the lineup are not well organized, and only one matches the description of the perpetrator
  • No one tapes the lineup procedures for later review

It can affect the reliability of the witness’s choice when a substantial amount of time has passed from when the crime occurred to the conduction of the lineup. Furthermore, environmental factors, such as how much light was present at the crime, weather patterns and far away the witness was standing from the perpetrator can influence identification accuracy as well.

It is critical that people understand their rights and have knowledge regarding the lineup process so they can minimize the risk of being wrongfully chose from an eyewitness lineup.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.