Category Archives: Eyewitness identification

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • In NY, the wrongfully convicted petition for prosecutorial oversight
  • Colorado to consider eyewitness lineup reforms
  • In Japan, will wrongful convictions be catalyst for criminal justice reform?
  • With a judge’s order throwing out his murder conviction in-hand, Tyrone Hood truly became a free man as he was exonerated at a Monday morning hearing after spending more than 20 years in prison for a slaying he’s continued to insist he did not commit.
    “I can’t even describe how I feel right now,” he said.  Nearly a month ago, outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn commuted Hood’s sentence, releasing him from prison.  The decision by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to dismiss the convictions against Hood and his co-defendant Wayne Washington, Jr. follows more than two years of investigation by her office’s conviction integrity unit – which began looking into the case in 2012 after the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project championed Hood’s innocence.  Keep reading…..
  • New legislation in Texas aimed at expanding access for inmates to post-conviction DNA testing

North Carolina Innocence Commission’s success has yet to inspire other states to follow suit

With eight exoncerations to its credit, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is living up to its goals when it was established in 2006. With official powers that others who investigate possible wrongful conictions don’t have, The Atlantic reports here, the commission has been able to crack cases that others might not have been be able to. That should make it a national model for how states could correct wrongful convictions, but it hasn’t been so far. Money is one reason. A lack of commitment may be another.

Update on the National Registry of Exonerations

In case you haven’t been able to check in on the National Registry of Exonerations lately, here’s an excerpt from the most recent data.  Note the total is now up to 1,512, and the trend line is definitely UP.

exon dna non

exon cont fact

exon fact crime

I won’t belabor you by pointing out some of the more obvious observations.  Just a few minutes of study will (should) lead you to some very clear conclusions.

It has been reported that the folks at the Registry are hard at work trying to incorporate the exonerations being generated by the newly formed “conviction integrity units” (CIU’s).  For these cases the prosecutors running the CIU’s may not be very motivated to have their exonerations logged into the Registry.

I can’t gush enough about how critical and important this data is.  It is this kind of HARD DATA that will provide the foundation for much needed and long overdue justice system reform.

Police Want to Revoke Exoneree Bennie Starks’ Certificate of Innocence

Bennie Starks was released from prison in 2006, after serving 20 years for a rape that DNA proved he did not commit.  He was fully exonerated in 2013, and was granted a Certificate of Innocence by the court.

Starks is now suing the Waukegan, IL police department and the forensic experts who falsely testified against him.  As a consequence of this law suit, the Waukegan police are trying to have Starks’ Certificate of Innocence revoked. Their fear is that the Certificate of Innocence will be a deciding factor in Starks’ civil law suit for compensation.

Dr. C. Michael (Mike) Bowers is a California dentist and enlightened forensic odontologist. He also edits a blog called Forensics in Focus.  Dr. Bowers was involved in the exoneration of Bennie Starks, and has posted his comments about this on his blog here.

Ricky Jackson Prison Release Video

On Wednesday, November 19, Nancy Petro reported on this blog about the exoneration of Ricky Jackson after 39 years in prison.  See that story here.

CNN has posted a great video of his release from prison.  See the 2 minute CNN video here.

National Academy of Sciences Releases Landmark Report on Memory and Eyewitness Identification, Urges Reform of Police Identification Procedures

The Innocence Project has posted a notice on its website, with a link to a press release, about the recently released report by the Nation Academy of Sciences on memory and eyewitness identification.

From the report:  “the legal standard that most courts use regarding the admissibility of eyewitness testimony was established before most of the scientific research was conducted.”

The report endorses the following procedures for police lineups:

  • Blind Administration — Research shows that the risk of misidentification is sharply reduced if the police officer administering a photo or live lineup is not aware of who the suspect is. This prevents the witness from picking up intentional or unintentional clues from the officer conducting the lineup.
  • Confidence Statements — Immediately following a lineup, the eyewitness should be asked to describe in his or her own words how confident he or she is in the identification. As the report notes, the level of confidence a witness expresses at the time of trial is not a reliable predictor of accuracy. Having the witness describe their level of confidence at the time an identification is made will provide juries with a useful tool for judging the accuracy of the identification.
  • Instructions — The person viewing the lineup should be told that the perpetrator may not be in the lineup and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether the witness identifies a suspect.
  • Videotape the procedure — The report recommends that police electronically record the identification procedure to preserve a permanent record of the procedure.

Most recent data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that for the 1,467 wrongful convictions currently in the registry, 35% had mistaken eyewitness identification as a contributing factor.

See the Innocence Project posting here.