"Innocence Project to Grade Witness Lineup Policies," is Brandi Grissom's latest post at the Texas Tribune.
The Innocence Project of Texas is preparing to grade about 1,200 law enforcement departments statewide on their compliance with a law that requires police agencies to adopt eyewitness identification policies.
“Unless somebody is really grading their papers, nobody knows whether the law is really being implemented,” said Scott Henson, a policy consultant for the Innocence Project.
Last year, Texas legislators approved a measure that required police agencies to adopt policies meant to prevent faulty eyewitness identification in criminal cases. Under the law, departments were required to adopt a written policy by Sept. 1. Last week, the Innocence Project sent the departments letters requesting copies of their lineup policies.
Faulty eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of wrongful convictions, according to the New York-based Innocence Project. In 297 DNA exonerations across the nation, the Innocence Project reported, mistaken identifications contributed to 75 percent of the wrongful convictions.
In Texas, faulty eyewitness identification contributed to wrongful convictions in 40 of the 52 DNA exonerations, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Legislators instructed the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University to develop a model policy on eyewitness identification that departments could use as a template.
That policy sets out guidelines for conducting lineups in a way that does not suggest to witnesses whom they should select. Those guidelines are the criteria against which the Innocence Project of Texas plans to judge the policies that departments have adopted, Henson said.
Among other things, the criteria include ensuring that the person presenting the photos does not know who the suspect is, asking witnesses how confident they are that the person they identified is the same one they saw at the crime scene, giving witnesses instructions that include letting them know the perpetrator may not be among the choices presented, showing potential suspects sequentially instead of simultaneously, and choosing subjects for the lineup who have similar characteristics to one another and to the suspect described.
Earlier coverage of the Texas eyewitness ID standards begins at the link.
Related posts are in the eyewitness identification index.