The Florida Senate Committee on Criminal Justice unanimously passed three bills on Tuesday intended to prevent and address wrongful convictions.
Senate Bill 312 would require lineups to be conducted using “blind” or “blinded administration” meaning that the person conducting the lineup must not be aware of who the suspect is, or if that is not feasible, the person uses a procedure that prevents him or her from seeing which lineup member is being viewed at a given time, which removes any chance of suggestiveness in the procedure. The bill would also require instructions to the witness that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup and that the investigation will continue whether they select someone or not.
Innocence Project State Policy Advocate Michelle Feldman told WFSU that these measures are essential to preventing eyewitness misidentification, which is the primary cause of wrongful convictions.
“There have been 349 DNA exonerations, “ Feldman told WFSU. “Seventy-one percent of those cases involved eyewitness misidentification, and the alternative perpetrators, that were later identified in those crimes, went on to be convicted of 100 additional violent crimes, and that includes 64 rapes and 17 murders. So, there’s a real public safety implication.”
Senate Bill 296 would require custodial interrogations for suspects of felony crimes to be recorded. Recorded interrogations can help false or coerced confessions from leading to wrongful convictions. Currently 21 states have laws requiring recorded of certain interrogations.
Senate Bill 494 would permit exonerees with additional non-violent felony convictions to be eligible for compensation from the state. Currently, exonerees in Florida are ineligible for compensation if they have any other standing felony convictions. Bill Dillon, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, is ineligible for compensation from the state because of a prior drug conviction.
The three bills will now go before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Listen to the WFSU broadcast here.