The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision today requiring major changes in the way courts are required to evaluate identification evidence at trial and how they should instruct juries. The new changes, designed to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions by taking into account more than 30 years of scientific research on eyewitness identification and memory, require courts to greatly expand the factors that courts and juries should consider in assessing the risk of misidentification.
“The court has recognized the tremendous fallibility of eyewitness identifications, and based on the most thorough review of scientific research undertaken by a court, has set up comprehensive and practical guidelines for how judges and juries should handle this important evidence,” Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said today.
The court’s decision stems from the 2004 conviction of Larry Henderson, a Camden man who received an 11-year prison sentence for reckless manslaughter and weapons possession related to a fatal shooting in January 2003. He appealed the photo lineup procedure because officers failed to follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Guidelines, issued in 2001, for conducting identification procedures. The appeals court agreed and ordered a new hearing on the admissibility of the photographic identification of Henderson. Before that could occur, the state appealed, and the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that an extensive inquiry into witness identification procedures currently used by law enforcement was necessary.
Three of New Jersey’s five wrongful convictions
overturned by DNA evidence involved eyewitness misidentification.
Read today’s ruling
. More on today’s ruling from the Associated Press:
Changes to way police eyewitness identifications are used in court are ordered by N.J. Supreme Court