News 03.17.11

Texas Senate Passes Critical Lineup Bill

The most common element in all wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence has been eyewitness misidentification. Misleading lineup methods have been used for decades without serious scrutiny. That could all change in Texas since the Senate passed a criminal lineup bill yesterday that seeks to avoid wrongful convictions.

According to the bill, police in Texas would have to adopt written policies for conducting live and photo identification lineups of criminal suspects, reported the Associated Press.

Studies have found that only about 12 percent of Texas law enforcement agencies have written policies for lineups.

The bill by Sen. Rodney Ellis directs experts at Sam Houston State University to work with law enforcement agencies to develop a model policy. It would include guidelines for instructions given to witnesses before they view a lineup, documentation of witness statements, how to deal with illiterate or non-English speaking witnesses or suspects, and making sure the lineup administrator does not know which member of a live lineup is the suspect.

“Eyewitness reform is a very simple, straightforward change to help create a smarter, more just system,” Ellis said.

Texas leads the nation in the number of people exonerated with DNA evidence, with more than 40 people released from prison since 1994. Most of those cases involved eyewitness misidentification during a lineup.

Wednesday’s unanimous vote sends the bill to the House, which is considering similar legislation.



Read the full article

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Understand

the cause of eyewitness misidentification

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Read the Innocence Project’s report

Reevaluating Lineups: Why Witnesses Make Mistakes and How to Reduce the Chance of a Misidentification

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