News 07.12.07

Social scientists say Illinois identification report is unreliable

Last year, a report released by Illinois police departments claimed that a non-scientific eyewitness identification review had called into question the practice of using “sequential double-blind” lineups. But this month a panel of leading social scientists reports in a law journal that the Illinois report was fatally flawed and its results should be viewed with extreme caution.

This month’s report, which was published in the journal Law and Human Behavior, states that the Chicago report’s “design guaranteed that most outcomes would be difficult or impossible to interpret. The only way to sort this out is by conducting further studies.”

The Center for Modern Forensic Practice of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice organized the July report’s “blue ribbon” panel of authors, which included Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman of Princeton and Harvard professor and author Daniel Schachter.

According to James Doyle, Director of the Center for Modern Forensic Practice, “We convened some of the nation’s leading experts to look at the Illinois report because it’s critical that criminal justice policy be based on sound science. They found, unequivocally, that the Illinois report cannot be relied on to determine whether sequential double-blind procedures are effective. Most importantly, they recommend that future study of these procedures be designed in consultation with qualified scientists from the beginning, so that such studies can produce solid, reliable guidance for practitioners and policymakers.”

Read the John Jay press release and the full article


. (John Jay College)

Sequential double-blind lineups are conducted by an administrator who does not know the identity of the suspect. Lineup members, or their photos, are presented one at a time to avoid any comparison between them. Social science research has supported these reforms for three decades, and field studies of identification reforms continue nationwide.

The Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog this week called the Chicago report “junk science” and calls for further study. Read the blog post



Eyewitness misidentification was a factor more than 75% of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing. Read about reforms supported by the Innocence Project




In light of the National Academy of Science’s 2014 report, “Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification,” the Innocence Project awaits further research concerning the merits of the sequential and simultaneous presentation methods.  

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