News 04.09.08

Another misidentification revealed by DNA testing

More than three-quarters of the 215 people exonerated by DNA testing were convicted based, at least in part, on eyewitness misidentification. There’s no way to know the number of people who are arrested each year – and spend months or years in jail awaiting trial – based on misidentification, before other evidence clears them.

In these cases, the system did find the truth before conviction, but not until a misidentification led to the arrest of an innocent person. While police focus on the wrong suspect, the real perpetrator remains at large, and becomes harder to find. And the innocent person can lose his or her job, family or house while sitting in a jail cell.

The countless people arrested each year for crimes they didn’t commit provide more reason for states to reform their eyewitness identification practices. The

improved procedures

proposed by the Innocence Project — and already in place in

several states

— reduce the number of misidentification, and therefore the number of false arrests.

The case of Cesar Augusto Alvarez in San Jose, California, is an example of this issue. Three days before Christmas last year, he was charged with rape and sent to jail – the victim had no doubt that he was the perpetrator. Now, three months later, DNA evidence has proven his innocence and all charges have been dismissed.


Read more about Alvarez’ case here

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Reforming eyewitness identification procedures helps everyone – it prevents wrongful convictions and arrests, it helps law enforcement focus on viable suspects and it helps victims get justice.

Find out what you can do in your state to help make these reforms a reality

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