Flaws in the physical and photo lineup process may lead to eyewitness misidentification and the incarceration of an innocent person.
When Colorado law enforcement officials investigate a serious crime, such as a burglary, murder or sexual attack, they may ask the victim or any witnesses of the crime to identify the suspect out of a lineup. The results of this eyewitness identification may be used as evidence in a court trial. Studies show that jurors rely heavily on eyewitness identification and testimony when determining whether a defendant is innocent or guilty of committing a crime, according to PBS News. Studies also show, however, that flaws in the lineup process can cause unreliable results. In fact, an error made during the eyewitness identification process may lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.
According to the Innocent Project, 330 people have been exonerated from their prison sentences after DNA evidence showed that they were actually innocent of the crime they were accused of committing. In more than 70 percent of these cases, eyewitness identification and/or testimony was involved in the erroneous conviction. Flaws in physical and photo lineup procedures, as well as the limitations of the human mind are contributing factors to misidentification. The American Bar Association reported that the wrong suspect is chosen from photo lineups in approximately 25 percent of cases. In one study where suspects were left out of the lineup, witnesses still chose an innocent person one-third of the time.
Lineups should be administered by people who have no previous knowledge of the crime. Not only does this keep the lineup administrator from hinting at the suspect’s identity, but the administrator is less likely to give certain verbal cues as well. The witness should be told that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup.
Physical and photo lineups should be organized in such a way that one person doesn’t stand out from the rest. For example, if the perpetrator of a crime was said to have facial hair and a tattoo, there should be more than one person included in the lineup with a tattoo and facial hair. All photographs should be the same size and use the same type of lighting to prevent one picture from standing out.
In addition, lineup procedures should be taped. This allows the judge presiding over the case or any other legal professionals involved to review the tape if there is any question regarding flawed lineup procedures.
Getting legal assistance
Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, especially if you are innocent of the crime. You may be forced to serve a serious sentence for a crime that you did not commit. A criminal attorney in Colorado may be able to provide essential legal counsel to people who are forced into these situations. A lawyer may be able to help explore all of your options and determine which defense is right for you.