News 09.26.07

Dallas to study new identification procedures

Since 2001, 13 wrongful convictions have been overturned by DNA testing in Dallas County – more than any other county in the United States. Eleven of those

13 wrongful convictions

were caused, at least in part, by eyewitness misidentification. But starting in January, Dallas officials aim to do something about the problem by participating in a major federal study of lineup procedures and reforms proven to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

The $300,000 study will be led by the

Urban Institute

, and will consist of more than 800 lineups in robbery cases. Four different types of lineups will be used – about 200 cases will be tested using each type – to collect scientific data on the outcome. Dallas police officials told the Dallas Morning News that they are excited to improve the county’s identification systems.

“Everybody in law enforcement wants to use the best system,” said Dallas police Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, commander of the criminal investigations bureau. “Once it’s been shown scientifically which is the best system, I think everybody will move to that system.”

Among the lineup styles being tested will be “sequential double-blind,” in which the lineup administrator doesn’t know which lineup member is the suspect, and the witness views individuals one at a time, instead of all at once. Social science research, including a field study in Hennepin County, Minnesota, have shown that this method reduces misidentifications. A report last year in Illinois challenged this format, but today’s Dallas Morning News article notes that the Illinois report “has come under withering criticism from experts who say it had major design flaws, including a lack of uniformity in the way the lineups were conducted.”

The Innocence Project strongly supports additional field studies of “sequential double-blind” – particularly field studies that, unlike the Illinois report, use solid scientific methodology.  The Dallas County study may also include field testing of “blind” administration as compared to “non-blind” administration, but the Innocence Project and leading researchers in the field have long expressed concerns about the ability to effectively field study the impact of “blind” administration on the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.


Read the full story here

. (Dallas Morning News, 09/26/07)

Read more about

eyewitness misidentification

and the Innocence Project’s

proposed reforms

to prevent wrongful convictions.

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