New Jersey Supreme Court Reviews Eyewitness Identification
Larry Henderson 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. In accepting an appeal in the case, New Jersey Supreme Court decided to conduct an in depth review of witness identification procedures used in the state and sent the case to a Special Master, retired state appellate judge Geoffrey Gaulkin, to review the three decades of scientific research on memory and identification.
At oral argument today, the New Jersey Supreme Court will debate the recommendations of the Special Master who concluded that the current system for dealing with identification procedures is so full of “flaws and inadequacies” that it should be replaced.
In an 86-page report released last June, Gaulkin endorsed the Innocence Project’s recommendations for new legal architecture.
“It would be appropriate and useful for this court to take all available steps to assure that judges and juries are informed of and guided by the scientific findings,” Gaulkin wrote.
Attorneys for the Innocence Project, a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongly accused people, contend the burden should be on prosecutors in every trial to prove that their identification methods are reliable.
In his report, Gaulkin said he favors holding pretrial hearings in which a judge determines the reliability of a witness’ identification.
New Jersey was one of the first states in the nation to adopt reforms on how lineups are conducted, but that was a decade ago and the state maintains those guidelines are good enough.
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