Connecticut Considers Improving Identification Procedures


As the Connecticut Supreme Court reconsiders a murder conviction based on the identification from a witness who was 265 feet away and five stories up from where the crime was committed, the justices are also considering changing rules on witness identification evidence.


For more than 35 years, judges have used what is called a “balancing test” in cases where they find that investigators may have been suggestive during the eyewitness identification process, and they need to determine whether the identification can still be admissible as evidence. If a judge determines that law enforcement was indeed suggestive in the identification, the judge must decide if the identification is still reliable by considering the witness’s accuracy of the description and other factors.


The Associated Press reports that the Innocence Project, the American Psychological Association and the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association are urging Connecticut’s Supreme Court to devise a better method than the current balancing test. Karen Newirth, a senior fellow at the Innocence Project told the Associated Press: “The test has a very perverse result. . . . The Supreme Court basically directed trial courts to balance suggestion against [witness] reliability. What we know is that suggestion inflates confidence. It inflates people’s recollection of how good their attention was.”


“What we’re really concerned with is preventing wrongful identifications,” said Newirth.


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