Rhode Island Task Force Offers a Path to Eyewitness Reform
By Stephen Saloom, Innocence Project Policy Director
An unprecedented bipartisan effort to prevent eyewitness misidentification in Rhode Island has begun to bear fruit.
Last year, state lawmakers formed a task force to examine eyewitness identification procedures across the state and recommend policies to prevent wrongful arrests and convictions to help law enforcement apprehend the true perpetrators of crime. The panel, which included top prosecutors, police, defense lawyers and researchers from Rhode Island, released its final report last month, and it squarely addresses virtually all of the systemic reforms necessary to minimize the possibility that eyewitness identification procedures contribute to eyewitness misidentification.
Among the report’s central recommendations are:
- A blind or “blinded” administrator (the law enforcement official conducting the lineup shouldn’t know which participant is the suspect)
- Immediate documentation of confidence statements upon any identification (the lineup administrator should ask the witness how sure they are of their identification)
- Instructions to the witness prior to the procedure (including that the perpetrator may not be present and that the investigation will continue after the lineup and others)
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