Eyewitness Reforms and Stronger Evidence


USA Today reports today on states and cities across the U.S. that have changed eyewitness identification procedures after DNA exonerations underlined flaws in traditional procedures. Not only are these improved procedures helping to prevent misidentifications — law enforcement agencies are finding that they provide stronger evidence, too.

Dallas is one of the latest cities to make the change voluntarily:

Since changing its policy in April, Dallas Police Lt. David Pughes says the department has conducted 1,400 lineups and believes "we're bringing a stronger piece of evidence to court."

…Pughes, who oversees the department's lineup program, calls the modifications a "huge, huge change to the investigative process." He admits the changes came only after Dallas County emerged as the nation's largest source of exonerations. "The lineup process really hadn't been challenged until DNA exonerations brought to light that innocent people were in jail," Pughes says.

Read the full story here

. (USA Today, 09/17/09)

The Innocence Project is working with advocates and lawmakers in more than ten states to support proposed reforms in the next year. Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing, playing a role in more than 75% of the 242 DNA exoneration cases. Read more about this issue and the proposed reforms in the recent Innocence Project report: “

Reevaluating Lineups: Why Witnesses Make Mistakes and How to Reduce the Chance of a Misidentification


Advocacy by exonerees and crime victims have contributed to reforms, like in North Carolina, where exoneree Ronald Cotton and crime victim Jennifer Thompson-Cannino spoke out in favor of lineup reforms and helped bring about

a comprehensive new state law in 2007

. Thompson-Cannino was the victim of a rape in 1984 and she misidentified Cotton as the perpetrator. He was exonerated through DNA testing in 1995, and today the two are friends and co-authors of the 2009 book “

Picking Cotton

.” Watch them on CBS News’ “60 Minutes”



What’s the law in your state?

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