News 01.05.15

New York District Attorney Endorses Reforms to Prevent Misidentification

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara is urging New York to adopt reforms that would help prevent wrongful convictions based on misidentification. McNamara’s interest in the issue stems from the 2008 exoneration of Innocence Project client Steven Barnes. According to the 

Utica Observer Dispatch

, after DNA evidence proved that Barnes was innocent of the murder of Kimberly Simon, McNamara vowed to do whatever he could to fix what had gone wrong to send an innocent man to prison. 

 

Last year, McNamara served on a committee for the National Academy of Science that released 

Identifying the Culprit

, a landmark report on misidentification urging states to adopt best practices to prevent misidentifications. McNamara told the 

Observer Dispatch

 that one of the problems with misidentifications is that the confidence a witness possesses when identifying a suspect in the court room often doesn’t reveal the doubts that the witness might have had when initially identifying the suspect soon after the crime occurred. In Barnes’ case, a key eyewitness couldn’t identify him from a photo lineup days after the murder, but the witness did identify Barnes in the courtroom during his trial three years later. The NAS report recommends that police solicit a confidence statement from the witness immediately after an identification. 

McNamara told the 

Observer Dispatch

, “It won’t always help the prosecution, but what it does do is it helps ensure that we’re not wrongfully convicting people. We want to hold people accountable for their crimes, but at the same time we want to ensure that what we’re doing does not convict innocent people, and this procedure would clearly accomplish that goal.” 

You can read the full article 

here

.

You can watch a video of Barnes discussing his wrongful conviction 

here

.

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