Category Archives: Eyewitness identification

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DOJ recommends eyewitness ID best practices for all federal law enforcement

From DOJ press release:

(Washington, D.C. – January 6, 2017) Today Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo to federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors recommending that all departments adopt eyewitness identification procedures that have been scientifically proven to reduce misidentification.  The recommendations include those from a 2014 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that reviewed three decades of basic and applied scientific research on eyewitness identification as well as recommendations included in President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Innocence Project has long advocated for these eyewitness identification best practices as a way to prevent eyewitness misidentifications, which have contributed to 70 percent of the wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence in the United States.

 

“We applaud Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for taking such a critical stance to prevent wrongful convictions,” said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.  “The recommendations she has made to all federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are based on the best science on memory and identification and will go a long way toward preventing injustice and ensuring that the real perpetrators of crimes are identified.”

 

The recommendations to federal law enforcement agencies include:

 

  • The officer administering the identification procedure should be unaware of the identity of the suspect so that he or she can’t intentionally or unintentionally influence the witness;
  • The witness should be told that the perpetrator may or may not be present in theprocedure and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether he or she selects a suspect;
  • Photos should resemble the witness’s description of the perpetrator; and
  • Immediately following the procedure, the witness should be asked to describe in his or her own words how confident he or she is in the identification.

 

The recommendations apply to all federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the Inspector General.  Nineteen states have already adopted these best practices through law, policy or court action, and many jurisdictions around the country have voluntarily adopted policies embracing these practices.

 

“By making these important recommendations, the Department of Justice has recognized the value of evidence-based practices which will improve the quality of evidence and protect the innocent. This is a step forward in a sea change that we have observed at the state level. Just four years ago, only 7 states had implemented best practices in this area; today, that number has nearly tripled to 19 states,” said Rebecca Brown, Innocence Project policy director.  “This is also reflective of leadership in the law enforcement community, from the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Model Policy on Eyewitness Identification, which was issued in 2010, to the recommendations of the President’s Task Force of 21st Century Policing just this year, which called for implementation of scientifically supported procedures and specifically highlighted the recommendations of the NAS Report.”

 

According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification contributed to 70 percent of the 347 wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence.  The real perpetrators were eventually identified in 98 (40 percent) of these cases.  While the innocent were languishing behind bars in these cases, the real perpetrators committed an additional 100 violent crimes.

A Case for Justice Reform in 2017

The year 2016 will go down as a good one for Freddie Peacock. But because it was so long in coming, it surely must be bittersweet. His story illustrates the slow pace and enormous hurdles in correcting criminal justice miscarriages post-conviction. It also calls on our individual and national conscience to make 2017 the year responsible citizens send the message loud and clear to all public and criminal justice professionals that this nation must replace the mantra of “tough on crime” with “smart on crime.” In the Peacock case we learn many lessons about wrongful conviction rarely delivered so clearly by a federal judge.

In August 2016 U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca awarded Freddie Peacock nearly $6.2 million long after Peacock’s conviction of and imprisonment for a 1976 Rochester (NY) rape he didn’t commit. Peacock had sued the city of Rochester and Rochester police. Judge Telesca’s decisions in May (here) enabling Peacock to pursue civil damages and in August (here) determining his damages are instructional for those who believe wrongful convictions are the inevitable rare result of innocent human error. Continue reading

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How Janet Reno bolstered the innocence movement

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was remembered for many things after her death this week. But one of her most important accomplishments was  greatly overlooked — how she fostered the innocence movement. Defense attorney James M. Doyle explains how in a column here.

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Could Jerry Sandusky be innocent?

What if Jerry Sandusky didn’t do it? Hard to believe, right? The evidence against him seemed to be overwhelming. But was it really?
Author Mark Pendergrast argues that much of the sensational 2012 child-abuse case against the notorious former Penn State assistant football coach hinges on flawed repressed-memory theory. In a commentary for The Crime Report here, Pendergrast says it is relatively easy to generate false memories of abuse and documents how that may have occurred in this case.

Johnson, Wheatt, Glover – All Charges Dismissed – After 20 Years

Johnson, Wheatt, Glover – this was the very first case I worked on with the Ohio Innocence Project eight and a half years ago. At the time, it was a GSR case (gunshot residue). The GSR evidence was always highly questionable, but it was a major factor in their conviction. As it turns out, not only was the GSR evidence bogus, but the case is also an example of egregious prosecutorial misconduct.

Please see the story by Maurice Possley on the National Registry of Exonerations website here.

 

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Wrongfully convicted man receives $10.1 million compensation

Francisco Carrillo Jr. was exonerated after serving 20 years in prison for a homicide he did not commit. The case involved eyewitness testimony that resulted from unethical police influence on the witness. A re-enactment of the scene showed that it was highly unlikely that the eyewitnesses could have seen the shooting.  Mr. Carrillo was awarded $10.1 million for the 20 years he served in prison. This compensation is the highest amount awarded in the State of California on a per year basis – – about $500,000 per year served in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Link to LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-francisco-carrillo-settlement-20160719-snap-story.html

Jack McCullough Exoneration. Case Not “Yet” Closed.

We have previously written about the Jack McCullough case here, here, and here.

Jack was convicted in 2012 of the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, IL. Jack was a neighbor of the Ridulph’s at the time. This used to be called the coldest case ever “solved.”

The current DeKalb County prosecutor, Richard Schmack, felt ethically compelled to review the case, and determined that evidence proved Jack could not be guilty.  Consequently, he filed a motion with the court to dismiss charges. Just this past April, Judge William Brady did dismiss the charges, but declined to do so “with prejudice.” This now leaves Jack vulnerable to being re-charged and re-tried. Maria Ridulph’s brother is continuing to seek appointment of a special prosecutor to re-open the case against Jack.

Now, a witness for the prosecution, who was incentivized to testify at Jack’s trial, has come forward to claim the the state did not live up to its part of the deal they made with him.

Well, if you’ve ever doubted the politically-driven and self-serving nature of the justice system, please see the recent CNN story HERE.

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