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Archive for Monday, March 25, 2013

Bill seeks to set police guidelines for eyewitness identifications

March 25, 2013

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Eyewitness I.D. process changes

The Topeka Police Department, like many across the country, has updated their policy for eyewitness photo identifications. In the past, police often used a single sheet with six photos, known as a "six-pack." But research has found witness accuracy improves when shown photos one at a time. Det. Larry Falley of the Topeka Police explains the advantages of the new policy. Enlarge video

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.

Comments

Kirk Larson 1 year, 9 months ago

Although we give it lots of credence in court, eye witness testimony is often the least reliable form of evidence. Just Google "did you see the gorilla".

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Or 'The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers',
by Daniel Schacter, former chair of Harvard University's Psychology Department and a leading memory researcher.
(ISBN 0-618-21919-6)

Shelley Bock 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't trust this legislature to devise any statute that is reasonable, fair and just. Simply doesn't seem to be part of their collective character.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

Whatever are you talking about. I am sure that they can devise a pay raise that is reasonable, fair, and just for themselves.

bearded_gnome 1 year, 9 months ago

witness testimony is incredibly unreliable. the article omits that before presentation of any photo array/sequence a very thorough effort must be made to elicit any description elements without leading questions. . the old fashioned police artist was sometimes useful if done right who drew as directed by the witness.

our memories are not like videos, they are more like houseplants we keep in our minds, we feed water and nourish. trouble is, we can change them as time goes by.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 9 months ago

People's memories vary a great deal. Some people have visual memories that are very much like snapshots. Other people can remember situations very well by referencing them to other events. The problem is there is not a reliable way to identify these people.

There was a girl in my high school a few years ahead of me, too many years for me to have known her, who was known for her phenomenal memory. She read the book or listened to the lecture, and remembered everything, and so she got all As. To show her memory, some students had her read a one page letter one time. Then, they all stood reading the letter, and had her recite it. She got maybe one word wrong, and all were amazed.

So, with all As, you would think she would do well in college, but that was not the case. She had always relied upon her total recall, but in college, processing information is important. She couldn't do that, and didn't do well at all.

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