Florida to Change Photo Lineup Policy
On Monday, the Florida Innocence Commission recommended an overhaul in the way its state police conduct photo lineups in an effort to combat wrongful convictions.
Florida currently does not have a standard for how police conduct lineups, which could allow victims to be intentionally or unintentionally influenced during lineups, reported the Orlando Sentinel.
The commission proposed a standard to be carried out statewide that would require blind photo lineups. The victim or witness is shown photos all at once in a group of six photos arranged in two rows with three photos per row. The officer is required to step back and remain quiet while the witness determines if any of the photos match a specific suspect.
A double blind test is recommended whenever possible, meaning that the procedure be performed by an officer who doesn’t know the identity of the suspect, further reducing the chance of suggestion.
The most common element in all wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence has been eyewitness misidentification. Misleading lineup methods have been used for decades without serious scrutiny. Now is the time for change. Commission members said the recommendations are not aimed to be a criticism of law enforcement.
“It’s a mistake to send the message you don’t trust law enforcement,” Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron, representing the Florida Sheriffs Association said, moments before being challenged by both a former federal prosecutor and a judge.
Judge Israel Reyes of Miami, a former homicide investigator for the Miami-Dade Police Department, told Cameron that the suggestion he did not support law enforcement was personally offensive. He said best practices are written so there is “no wriggle room for the bad segments of law enforcement” who routinely cut corners and don’t follow procedures.
The recommendation will be presented to the state Supreme Court next month as part of the commission’s interim report.
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