Missouri Senator Promises to Work toward Preventing Wrongful Convictions
In an opinion piece published on Friday in the St. Louis Dispatch, Senator Joe Keaveny promises to introduce a new bill under which police will be mandated to implement eyewitness identification policies to reducing misidentification of witnesses, the leading cause of wrongful convictions in Missouri.
Outlining key reasons as to why Missouri needs policies to safeguard against eyewitness misidentifications, the senator notes that all nine of the state’s exonerees were wrongfully convicted based on faulty identifications by victims and other witnesses. He goes on to explain that while those nine innocent men were wasting years of their lives in prison, the real perpetrators were on the street, putting the people of Missouri in danger. Keaveny writes that new lineup policies will include, but not be limited to:
- [Lineups in which the] administrator does not know [and] cannot see [the] suspect’s identity… this prevents any unintentional cues. Because it is not always practicable for a small department to administer a live or photo lineup this way, the “folder shuffle” method can be alternatively used for photo lineups. This simple method involves placing photos in different folders, shuffling them and handing them to the eyewitness or victim individually, so the officer is unaware of the photo being viewed.
- Instructions: The officer must instruct the eyewitness or victim that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether a selection is made; this way, there is no pressure to make a selection.
- Confidence statement: A verbatim statement of confidence must be written down by the officer at the time the victim or eyewitness makes an identification. Having the eyewitness or victim describe their level of confidence at that time will provide juries with a useful tool for judging the accuracy of the identification.
- Proper filler selection: Lineup members who are not suspects must match the victim’s or eyewitness’s description of the perpetrator.
Keaveny says he will also introduce legislation to protect against conditions that can lead to false confessions, a leading cause of wrongful convictions nationwide.
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