Monday, August 29, 2011
The Weakness of Police Lineups
A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case may change the rules for how juries (and judges) treat evidence from police lineups. The Court's decision applied many years of eye-witness identification research showing that eye-witness procedures are flawed and can result in mis-identifications. The decision went on to attached consequences for police, and other law enforcement, who fail to take necessary precautions to reduce the subtle pressures applied to eye-witnesses to make an identification. Such pressures often result in mistaken identifications, which send innocent people to prison. The most important aspect of the research mandated two practices: First, that lineups are blinded and administered by someone who is not familiar with the suspect and who is not one of the primary investigators on the case; and second, photo arrays should be presented sequentially rather than as a group. Both practices, studies find, decrease the pressure on witnesses to pick someone and guard against influence.