News 04.29.11

Florida Exonerees Endorse Statewide Identification Reform

In an editorial published in yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel, seven Florida exonerees

rallied behind a state senate bill that would reform lineup identification procedures

. James Bain, Orlando Boquete, Alan Crotzer, Wilton Dedge, William Dillon, Larry Bostic and Derrick Williams spent a collective 158 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit—all of them were misidentified by eyewitnesses.

The authors of bill appealed to years of scientific research in drafting its central components. At its core is the practice of blind administration, which would require that the person administering the lineup not know the identity of the suspect. These procedures would better ensure not only that identifications are uncontaminated by intentional and accidental cues, hopefully preventing misidentifications and lessening likelihood of a wrongful conviction, but also that the true perpetrators of crimes are caught. The exonerees wrote:

During our years of incarceration, the actual perpetrators of the crimes for which we were convicted remained at large and free to commit countless additional crimes. Consider statistics collected by the national Innocence Project: Real perpetrators were identified in more than 100 post-conviction DNA exoneration cases. These real perpetrators were convicted of more than 60 sexual assaults and 20 murders that were committed while innocent men like us suffered behind bars.

Introduced by republican State Senator Joe Negron, the bill is expected to pass in the Senate but has met substantial opposition in the Florida House, where an identical bill was recently modified to exclude the provision for blind administration. “We could not understand why,” wrote the seven exonerees. “We urge them to pass S.B. 1206 in its current form.”

In their letter, the seven exonerees recognized the bill’s urgency: “If even one person could be spared the fate we were forced to endure, it would lessen our suffering and bring a little meaning to the years, experiences and opportunities we lost.”

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