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Eyewitness ID Report

Eyewitness ID Report

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Published by mlandauer

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Published by: mlandauer on Jul 21, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/08/2012

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REEVALUATINGLINEUPS:
WHY WITNESSES MAKE MISTAKES
AND HOW TO REDUCE THE CHANCE OF A MISIDENTIFICATION
BENJAMIN N. CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW, YESHIVA UNIVERSITY
AN INNOCENCE PROJECT REPORT
 
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Gordon DuGan
 President and Chief Executive Officer,W.P. Carey & Co., LLC
Senator Rodney Ellis
Texas State Senate, District 13 Board Chair
 Jason Flom
 President, LAVA Records
 John Grisham
 Author
Calvin Johnson
 Former Innocence Projectclient and exoneree;Supervisor, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Dr. Eric S. Lander
 Director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard Professor of Biology, MIT 
Hon. Janet Reno
 Former U.S. Attorney General
Matthew Rothman
 Managing Director and Global Headof Quantitative Equity Strategies, Barclays Capital
Stephen Schulte
 Founding Partner and Of Counsel,Schulte Roth & Zabel, LLP
Bonnie Steingart
 Partner, Fried, Frank, Harris,Shriver & Jacobson LLP
 Andrew H. Tananbaum
 President and CEO,Capital Business Credit, LLC
 Jack Taylor
 Head of High Yield Debt, Managing Director, Prudential Real Estate Board Treasurer
Paul R.Verkuil
Of Counsel, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP
Rachel Warren
 M.K. Enterprises, Inc.
CONTENTS
1.EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.................................................................................................32.HISTORY AND OVERVIEW OF EYEWITNESS MISIDENTIFICATION..................................63.PROBLEMS WITH TRADITIONAL EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION PROCEDURES.............104.HOW TO PREVENT MISIDENTIFICATION.....................................................................165.REFORMS AT WORK..................................................................................................22ENDNOTES.....................................................................................................................26APPENDIX A:Wrongful Conviction Cases Later Overturned Through DNA TestingWhich Involved Eyewitness Misidentification....................................................................28APPENDIX B:Model Legislation: An Act to Improve The Accuracy of Eyewitness Identifications................33
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Eyewitness identification is among the most prevalent and persuasive evidence used incourtrooms. Eyewitness testimony that directly implicates the defendant is compelling evidencein any trial, but it is not error-proof. Jurors may not realize that confident, trustworthy witnessescan be mistaken. A single witness’s identificationcan be enough to obtain a conviction.Eyewitness identification also plays a key rolein shaping investigations. In the immediate after-math of a crime, an erroneous identification canderail police investigations by putting focus onan innocent person while the actual perpetratoris still on the streets. Once a witness identifiesthe suspect to police, whether or not that personactually committed the crime, investigators may stop looking for other suspects.Over 175 people have been wrongfully convictedbased, in part, on eyewitness misidentification andlater proven innocent through DNA testing. Thetotal number of wrongful convictions involvingeyewitness misidentifications exceeds this figure,given the widespread use of eyewitness testimony and the limited number of cases in which DNA evidence is available for post-conviction testing.Experts estimate that physical evidence that canbe subjected to DNA testing exists in just 5-10%of all criminal cases.
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Even among that smallfraction of cases, many will never have the benefit of DNA testing because the evidence has beenlost or destroyed. DNA exonerations don’t just show a piece of the problemthey are a micro-cosm of the criminal justice system.Decades of empirical, peer-reviewed social scienceresearch reaffirms what DNA exonerations haveproven to be true: human memory is fallible.
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Memory is not fixed, it can be influenced andaltered. After the crime and throughout thecriminal investigation, the witness attempts topiece together what happened. His memory isevidence and must be handled as carefully asthe crime scene itself to avoid forever altering it.The Innocence Project identifies the commoncauses of wrongful convictions across DNA exoneration cases and has found eyewitnessmisidentification to be the leading cause.Innocence Project research shows:Over 230 people, serving an average of 12 years in prison, have been exoneratedthrough DNA testing in the United States,and 75% of those wrongful convictions(179 individual cases as of this writing)involved eyewitness misidentification.In 38% of the misidentification cases,multiple eyewitnesses misidentified thesame innocent person.Over 250 witnesses misidentifiedinnocent suspects.Fifty-three percent of the misidentificationcases, where race is known, involved cross-racial misidentifications.
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