innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mistaken identity

Posted by Hello

Barry Scheck calls mistaken eyewitness identification "the single greatest cause of the conviction of the innocent" in this month's issue of the Champion, the national defense lawyers' mag. Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project in New York, calls for a half-dozen reforms to the ways photo array and lineups are conducted:

* Police should use a person who doesn't know the suspect's identity to run photo arrays and lineups
* Police should warn witnesses the suspect may not be in the array or lineup
* Police should match photos and lineup participants to the description given by the witness, not the suspect's appearance
* Police should note the witness' confidence after an identification is made
* Array photos should be shown to witnesses one at a time
* Arrays should contain at least six photos

Scheck's article isn't posted online yet, but there's several related stories in past Champion issues. One story suggests ways for defense lawyers to challenge IDs, noting 85 percent of the convictions overturned by DNA evidence involved a mistaken eyewitness. Another article outlines two stories of eyewitness error.