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Flaws in lineup procedures and wrongful convictions

Disorganized and flawed lineups may lead to eyewitness identification errors and the conviction of an innocent person.

When people stand trial in a United States court of law, they are innocent until proven guilty. A surprising number of people in Texas and throughout the nation, however, are innocent of committing a crime but received a guilty verdict. Researchers, who have looked into the issue of eyewitness misidentification and the weight that eyewitness testimony bears on a criminal case, have found certain flaws in lineup procedures. Errors in this seemingly simple process could lead to the misidentification of an innocent person, which may lead to wrongful incarceration. What are these flaws and what is being done to reduce the number of victims affected by this injustice?

Eyewitness lineups

When eyewitnesses are asked to choose a suspect out of a physical lineup, they should be led by a double-blind administrator. This means that the person guiding the witness through the lineup process has no information regarding the crime or the case. Lineup administrators who have previous knowledge of the case may inadvertently lead the witness to select a certain person from the lineup. Furthermore, these procedures should be taped, so that future parties can review the process for accuracy.

Lineups should be organized in a way where there is more than one person who matches the description of the perpetrator. For example, if the perpetrator was said to have a beard and a tattoo, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a beard and a tattoo. When there is only one person matching the description, it may lead the eyewitness to select that person regardless of whether that person is the actual suspect.

Standardizing photographs

Photographic lineups may also be a problem when it comes to identification accuracy. The photographs included in the lineup should be the same size, and discrepancies eliminated. For instance, all photographs should be in color or all in black-and-white. Having one colored photograph may stand out and the witness could inadvertently choose that person.

What is being done?

In some states, legislation requires all law enforcement departments to follow a set of standardized rules when it comes to performing eyewitness lineups. Many states, however, do not have such legislation in place, which could cause identification errors.

Finding the legal assistance you need

If you have been charged with a crime, you may want to seek counsel from an experienced defense attorney in Texas. In addition to answering any questions you have, a lawyer may help you look at all of your legal options and build a strong defense that will maximize the outcome of your case.