A bill proposed in the Kansas Senate last month seeks to cut down on eyewitness misidentifications in criminal cases.
Senate Bill 190, proposed by Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, Kan., would set guidelines — such as how many photos to use and how to display them to witnesses — for police when conducting photo and live lineups.
Studies have consistently shown that how police conduct photo lineups can play a role in influencing witnesses and potentially steer them toward the wrong suspect, said David Dodge, a policy analyst with the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit that works to free the wrongfully convicted.
In Kansas, two men have been exonerated of crimes based in DNA evidence. One of those men, Joe Jones, was convicted of a 1985 rape in Topeka based primarily off mistaken eyewitness identification.
In the years since the Jones case, Topeka police have changed the way they conduct identifications, as have numerous other cities across the country.
In Jones' case, police used a one-sheet "six pack" photo array.
Topeka Det. Larry Falley said the department now uses a one-photo “sequential” lineup, in which the witness is shown photos one at a time. This has several advantages, Falley said. In sequential lineups, witnesses are less likely to guess than when there are multiple photos shown at once.
The proposed legislation would make such practices mandatory across the state.
"We're seeing a steady march on this," Dodge said of the movement toward such reforms.
The bill has been referred to the Senate's Judiciary Committee.