Alan Newton, an Innocence Project client who was exonerated and released in 2006 after more than two decades in prison for a rape and robbery he did not commit, is speaking out in support of a bill which could help prevent false confessions and eyewitness misidentifications in New York, leading contributors to wrongful convictions in the state and nationwide.
As highlighted recently in DNAinfo, bill S 5875 /A 8157 would require interrogations of suspects in violent felony cases to be videotaped. It would also require photo lineups to be double-blind, meaning that the administering officer does not know the suspect’s identity or cannot see which photo the eyewitness is viewing. A double-blind line-up prevents the officer from signaling, intentionally or otherwise, to the eyewitness when shown the suspect’s photo.
Newton was convicted based upon the testimonies of the victim and an eyewitness, both of whom misidentified him from a photo lineup. Newton’s alibi was corroborated by his fiancé and her daughter, and DNA evidence later proved he was not the perpetrator.
“More than half of New York’s DNA-based exonerations involve misidentification,” Innocence Project Policy Director Rebecca Brown told the
. “Implementing evidence-based eyewitness identification procedures, including the use of a blind administrator and obtaining a statement of confidence from the eyewitness could have very likely prevented Alan’s wrongful conviction.”
In June, a coalition formed by the New York State Bar Association, the District Attorneys Association of New York and the Innocence Project called for New York State to adopt practices recommended to reduce the chances of eyewitness misidentification and coerced confessions.
According to Innocence Project data, eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide, while more than 1 out of 4 people exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.
Read the DNA Info story
Learn more about eyewitness misidentification