Eyewitness Identification Reform

In 2010, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) issued a model policy on eyewitness identification which includes: blind/blinded administration, proper use of fillers, proper instructions to the witness, and witness confidence statements. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also issued a set of jury instructions to be given immediately before or after the testimony of an identifying witness, at the request of either party. Some of these jury instructions speak to the effect of police practice on the reliability of eyewitness evidence. In combination with the MCOPA policy, these instructions have resulted in the use of evidence-based practices at the local law enforcement agency level. Policy adopted: 2010; Jury instruction adopted: 2015.

Read the MCOPA model policy

Read the SJC jury instructions

Recording of Interrogations

In 2004, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held in DiGiambattista v. Commonwealth that when unrecorded statements are offered into evidence, the jury must be instructed that "the State’s highest court has expressed a preference that (custodial) interrogations be recorded whenever practicable."

To avoid these unfavorable jury instructions, police departments throughout Massachusetts record custodial interviews.

Read the Supreme Judicial Court decision here: Commonwealth v. DiGiambattista

Post Conviction DNA Testing

A person convicted of a crime claiming factual innocence can file a motion requesting the forensic or scientific testing of biological evidence in the court of conviction. The court will allow testing if the motion satisfies certain standards by preponderance of the evidence. Effective: 2012

Read the statute.

Evidence Preservation

State statute requires the automatic preservation of biological evidence related to the conviction of an individual for a crime. The evidence must be preserved for the period of time that a person remains in the custody of the commonwealth or under parole or probation supervision in connection with that crime, without regard to whether the evidence or biological material was introduced at trial. Effective: 2012.

Massachusetts' statute meets the best practices standards outlined by the NIST Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation.

Read the statute.

Exoneree Compensation

A wrongfully convicted person shall receive a maximum of $1 million, as well as the potential for physical and emotional services, educational services at any state or community college, and expungement of the record of conviction. Any person is eligible within two years of exoneration so long as they did not plead guilty (unless such plea was withdrawn, vacated, or nullified). Effective: 2004; Amended: 2018.

Read the statute.

Forensic Science Oversight

The Massachusetts Forensic Science Oversight Board was created by state statute in 2018 and implemented in 2019, in an effort to create a body with oversight authority over all state facilities engaged in forensic services and criminal investigations and to provide objective independent auditing and oversight of criminal forensic evidence and analysis. The Forensic Science Oversight Board is also charged: with creating a process to investigate the scientific validity of a forensic science technique or analysis; developing recommendations to strengthen forensic science methodologies and practices; and implementing and reviewing a system for forensic laboratories to report professional negligence or misconduct. The Forensic Science Oversight Board has 14 members, including forensic scientists, forensic science experts, statistics experts, a forensic academic, a cognitive bias expert, a member nominated by the New England Innocence Project, and defense and prosecuting attorneys. Effective: 2018.

Read the statute

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