Yesterday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law Senate Bill 38, which is critical legislation that requires all police agencies in Louisiana to mandate long-established eyewitness identification procedures to help prevent wrongful convictions.
More specifically, the legislation requires that police agencies adopt the Louisiana Sheriff’s Executive Management Institute model policy on eyewitness identification procedures or write its own policy based on specified scientifically-supported best practices. Among the procedures that the model policy necessitates are blind administration of photo lineups, proper instructions to eyewitnesses, proper composition of line-ups such that all lineup members match the description of the perpetrator provided by the eyewitness, obtaining statements of confidence from the eyewitness at the time of the identification and video or audio recordings of identification processes.
Innocence Project New Orleans and the Innocence Project worked in partnership to pass this law, which was sponsored by Senator Wesley Bishop. The Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, the Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association were also instrumental in the bill’s passage.
“SB 38 represents a fundamental change in Louisiana, which we know will continue to bring justice, fairness and truth to our criminal justice system,” said Innocence Project state policy advocate Amshula Jayaram. “We are thrilled that all of the brave and bold exonerees were able to join us in this day and know their suffering was not in vain. Because of their tireless advocacy and willingness to share their stories, whole communities will be protected from the horrors of wrongful conviction.”
According to the Innocence Project’s own data, eyewitness misidentifications have contributed to 70 percent of exonerations proven through post-conviction DNA testing.