News 02.06.07

New Mexico Senate passes eyewitness identification reform bill

The New Mexico Senate passed a bill that would reform police lineups and reduce eyewitness misidentifications. The bill passed by a vote of 22-20 and will now go to the state House of Representatives. The bill would require police to conduct photo lineups sequentially, rather than simultaneously, an important reform (read more here), and includes several other vital reforms.

“This bill simply recognizes that police officers are human; we want to try to eliminate as much human error as possible and make sure that we get the actual perpetrator of a crime convicted,” Sen. John Grubesic, a Santa Fe Democrat, told the Sante Fe New Mexican.

On Monday, Innocence Project Co-Director

Barry Scheck

and Staff Attorney

Ezekiel Edwards

(Mayer Brown Eyewitness Fellow) posted this letter online, calling for the passage of the New Mexico bill. The letter reads, in part:

It’s not complicated: mandating reform in eyewitness identification procedures is a win-win situation, resulting in fewer innocent people being sent to prison, more guilty people getting caught, and our communities becoming safer.

“For years, Democrats and Republicans alike have embraced policies that are tough on crime. Now it is time they get smart about crime, too. In light of the daunting number of wrongful convictions caused by erroneous eyewitness identifications, along with the copious scientific research documenting the factors that enhance its error rate, our leaders must prioritize aggressive reform of police procedures in this arena. Supporting bills like New Mexico Senate Bill 5 is a good place to start.”

Several blogs posted the Scheck and Edwards letter on Monday, including

Talk Left

, and a

Christian Science Monitor story today

discusses how states are turning to sequential lineups to improve the quality of eyewitness identifications.

 


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