Being wrongfully charged with a crime may feel difficult enough, but it becomes much worse when an eyewitness identifies you as the suspect. According to the Innocence Project, about 69% of all wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence occurred because of a mistaken eyewitness.
Understanding the problems with the current eyewitness identification system may help your defense.
Lineup administrator mistakes
Most of the mistakes with eyewitness identification occur during the lineup. The administrator usually knows who the suspect is. Even if he or she does not mean to, the administrator can give unintentional cues to the eyewitness. The administrator may not choose fillers who match the suspect’s description so that you could stand out in the crowd.
Sometimes, lineup administrators do not ask the witness to describe how confidently he or she feels about the identification. If asked about this after the process, he or she may feel more confident than when the witness made the ID. This is because he or she may receive positive feedback from the administrator and double down on the identification.
Eyewitness identification consequences
Eyewitness identification slows down the justice system. The earliest stage of an investigation is critical to find the culprit. The police become distracted by the wrong suspect when the eyewitness directs them to the wrong person. Even if you were not guilty, the police would begin to build a case against you.
Reform ideas include double-blind procedures where the eyewitness and administrator do not know who the suspect is, statements that describe the confidence level of the eyewitness and clear instructions that the eyewitness does not have to choose a suspect if he or she does not see one.