By Amshula Jayaram, State Policy Advocate
Colorado recently became the 12
state in the nation to adopt uniform best practices for eyewitness identification procedures, following a trend that encompasses every region of this country, from Texas to Wisconsin to New Jersey. All of the residents of these states are now being served by police departments that are using eyewitness identification practices that have been scientifically proven to reduce the likelihood of misidentification. This is a major development, considering misidentification is the leading contributor of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence, playing a role in 72% of such cases, nationally.
In Colorado, the legislation passed without a dissenting vote. That was the result of
between prosecutors, law enforcement officials, advocates and members of the legislature. Those members were undoubtedly moved by the harrowing testimony of exonerees
, both of whom were misidentified and spent decades in prison, and
, a sexual assault survivor whose misidentification of her attacker sent an innocent man—Ronald Cotton—to prison for 10 years. But even before this groundbreaking legislation was introduced, stakeholders from across the spectrum of the criminal justice system came together to tackle this issue. Leaders from the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorneys Council, the Defense Bar, the Chiefs and Sheriffs’ Associations and the Innocence Project teamed up to come up with practical, evidence-based procedures which eventually became the basis of the law.
As a member of that team, I can testify to the rigor, honesty and openness of everyone involved. This is not only a reflection of these individual leaders, but to the culture of a state wherein differences of opinion do not stymie dialogue or prevent partnerships. In the end, those conversations and partnerships cleared the path to a robust, informed solution that we can all be proud of. And the victory is that much more meaningful because we got there together.