Forty-four people have been exonerated through DNA evidence in Texas, and 36 of them were wrongfully convicted, based in part, on eyewitness misidentification. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of future wrongful convictions, Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Pete Gallego helped pass legislation to standardize police lineup and photo identification procedures statewide last session.
Come September, all law enforcement agencies that conduct photo or video lineups must adopt eyewitness policies and procedures. The Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University has released a model policy, at the request of the Legislature, to be used as an example in setting those procedures. Training on the model policy begins in May. The Houston Chronicle reports:
“My hope is what they will learn is the application of the eyewitness identification process established through scientific evidence and founded on best practices,” institute executive director Rita Watkins said in a statement. “With these policies and procedures, they will have the opportunity to develop their own procedures that they can apply in their own communities.”
The comprehensive, scientifically-supported model policy includes many key reforms including the sequential presentation of the lineup members (rather than simultaneous) and a lineup administrator who doesn’t know which person is the suspect.