An op-ed appearing in Friday’s Philadelphia Inquirer by Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Legal Director for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, called on the need for eyewitness identification reforms in Pennsylvania.
There’s always room for improvement when it comes to ensuring the safety of citizens and upholding the integrity of the justice system. And misidentifications not only threaten the innocent; they also derail investigations.
Moreover, while police focus on building cases against innocent people, the real perpetrators are free to commit other crimes. In 31 cases in which misidentified suspects were exonerated and actual perpetrators were identified, those perpetrators went on to commit other crimes. These include 52 rapes, 17 murders, and eight other violent crimes that took place after the wrongful convictions. And these numbers are quite conservative because they include only violent criminal convictions.
Change is often unsettling, but for the sake of the public good and the many people who have been wrongfully convicted because of witness misidentification, it’s time for Pennsylvania to acknowledge the scientific research and embrace policies that will improve public safety while preventing more horrible miscarriages of justice.