Eyewitness identification may be unreliable

Not everyone currently sitting behind bars is guilty of committing a crime. Flaws in the eyewitness identification process may end in an innocent people being convicted of crimes they did not commit. According to the Innocence Project, 362 people have been exonerated of their prison sentences after DNA evidence proved they were innocent. Of these cases, 70 percent involved incidents of eyewitness misidentification, where the wrong person was chosen out of an eyewitness lineup. How does this injustice occur and what can be done to stop it?

Flaws in the eyewitness lineup process include inadvertent leading of the witness to choose a certain person from the lineup. Generally, the lineup administrator has full knowledge of the case. The lineup should be administered by a person who has no knowledge of the case in order to avoid leading the witness. Furthermore, the witness should be given proper instructions. This includes being told that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup, so they do not feel obligated to make a choice.

Poor organization of a lineup can also lead to picking an innocent person. For example, if the suspect is said to have a beard and a tattoo, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a beard and tattoo. Having just one person in the lineup that matches the description of the perpetrator may lead to an error.

Finally, lineup procedures should be recorded so a judge may review the process to ensure proper practices have taken place.

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