Rhode Island Panel Will Review Eyewitness Procedures


A group of Rhode Island law enforcement officials and defense lawyers began work last week on drafting a set of guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures statewide.

The Providence Journal reports that the group held its first meeting Thursday and must submit a report to the governor, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and legislative leaders recommending new eyewitness 
identification guidelines for policies and procedures by January 11, 2011.

At least seven people have been wrongfully convicted in Rhode Island based on misidentifications and later cleared, according to a review conducted in 2008 by the Rhode Island Office of the Public Defender. 

The task force will hold biweekly meetings and will evaluate the way photo and live lineups are conducted and the importance of having a police officer with no connection to a case administer all lineups. The Innocence Project will provide research and input to the board during this research process. Professors who specialize in misidentification and memory and law enforcement officials from areas that have already have improved eyewitness identification procedures will also lend support to the task force.

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

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