For more than a decade, New York City Police Department detectives in the Bronx have paid Robert Weston $10 to find stand-ins for eyewitness identification lineups, or to play the role himself.
Detectives often find fillers on their own and sometimes even shed their uniform to do it themselves, reported The New York Times. They can also rely on Weston, who said he has never turned down money and always produced a filler when asked.
It all started about 15 years ago when a police officer interrupted Weston’s lunch to ask if he and some friends could participate in a lineup. Now, Weston makes a living in his role assisting the NYPD, organizing as many as four lineups in one day. As the article shows, Weston’s approach to finding fillers is hardly an exact science.
“Every time I call him and I tell him I need light-skin Hispanic of that description, he always brings dark-skin,” a Bronx homicide detective, Luke Waters, testified earlier this year, according to a court transcript. “He wants to make money as quick as he can, and when he brings them in I don’t like them.”
Eyewitness misidentification has played a role in 75% of wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing to date, and among the procedural reforms supported by the Innocence Project are safeguards to ensure that fillers resemble the witness’ description of the perpetrator.