News 02.14.11

Florida Attorney Wants Special ID Jury Instruction

A suspect in connection with a 2009 Florida armed robbery is set to go on trial later this month.  But since the only witness placing Markis Smith at the crime scene is the victim, his attorney asked the judge for special jury instructions regarding eyewitness identification.

The victim had a window less than ten seconds to look at the perpetrator, who pointed a gun less than 12 inches from his face, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

According to Smith’s attorney Roger Weeden, the special instructions would decrease the chances of a wrongful conviction and urge jurors to consider if the witness had “adequate opportunity” and the “capacity” to observe the perpetrator. Special jury instructions are rare in Florida, but the judge seems keen on preventing mistaken identifications.

“If they do happen, is it not our obligation to come up with something that can if not eliminate certainly narrow and limit the number of mistakes that fall into that category?” Circuit Judge Walter Komanski said.

Weeden encouraged Komanski “to be ahead of the curve on this.” He is expected to rule on Weeden’s motion before Smith’s trial next week.  If the special instructions are approved, Weeden said it is likely he would request they be used in other eyewitness identification cases.


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