This week marks the eighth anniversary of Habib Wahir Abdal’s exoneration. He served 17 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing proved his innocence. Like most wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence, Abdal’s wrongful conviction was caused in part by eyewitness misidentification.
In fact, the eyewitness identification procedure in Abdal’s case was an egregious example of police practices that lead to misidentifications and wrongful convictions. Four months after the crime, police brought the victim face to face with Abdal in what is called a “show-up” procedure. Even though police had told her he was the suspect, she did not identify him as the perpetrator. She was then shown a four-year-old photo of Abdal, and returned to the “show up” to identify him as the perpetrator.