On January 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Chile granted the appeal of Julio C. Robles Vergara, ordering his immediate release. In June, 2012, Mr. Robles was convicted of robbery at a minimarket and was sentenced to prison for five years and one day based on the victim’s eyewitness misidentification.
Mr. Robles was identified in a photo array, but after his conviction the victim realized his mistake when he saw his real assailant stealing in another store. Based on this information, Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile was able to present the case to the Chilean Supreme Court and end Robles’ four hundred and fifty nine days of wrongful incarceration.
Cases like this demonstrate that faulty eyewitness identification is a global problem. Courts should consider the many studies illustrating the problems with these types of identifications before convicting based on this evidence. Mr. Robles was incredibly lucky that the actual perpetrator committed the crime again in the presence of the witness in his case. We cannot allow cases to only be remedied when there is such a random happenstance. How many other people sit in prison who will never be able to prove that the identification in their case was faulty?
Congratulations to Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile for exonerating Mr. Robles and bringing the problems with identifications to the public’s attention in Chile.
Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks
Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
For more information regarding Mr. Robles’s case, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/sala_prensa/noticias_detalle/74/caso-robles-algunas-reflexiones-a-partir-de-un-recurso-de-revision-acogido
For more information abourt Innocence Project in Chile, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/
For more information about Red Inocente, please see: http://www.redinocente.org/