Archive for Saturday, March 12, 2016

Legislation addressing eyewitness misidentification advances

In this file photo, Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, testifies during a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at the Statehouse in Topeka. Haley recently introduced a bill that is expected to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Kansas due to eyewitness misidentification.

In this file photo, Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, testifies during a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at the Statehouse in Topeka. Haley recently introduced a bill that is expected to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Kansas due to eyewitness misidentification.

March 12, 2016

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A bill that is expected by some to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Kansas because of eyewitness misidentification passed the Senate on Thursday.

The bill, originally introduced by Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, passed on a 38-1 vote with only Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, opposing it.

The bill in its current form is not as stringent as the original and does not require the videotaping of police interviews of suspects, but it has broad support of the law enforcement community. It now goes to the House.

If passed, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on procedures that police use to gather witness identification evidence. The bill also recommends that the policies that police agencies adopt incorporate best practices that the National Academy of Sciences, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and others have endorsed.

Some of those include:

• Ensuring the officer who administers a police lineup does not know the suspect’s identity. This is to prevent the officer from making unintended cues to the witness.

• Instructing witnesses that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup and even if the witness is unable to identify a suspect, explaining to the witness that the investigation will continue.

• Ensuring that nonsuspects in a lineup match the witness description of the suspect so that no one in the lineup stands out.

• Having eyewitnesses provide a statement in their own words describing how confident they are that they selected the right suspect. That statement should be in writing.

This year’s bill is a result, in part, of the release of Floyd Bledsoe from prison. Bledsoe spent almost 16 years behind bars for a murder his brother admitted doing.

Bledsoe had been pushing for the requirement that police interviews be recorded because he said he might not have been wrongfully convicted if jurors had been able to see or hear his brother’s confession and see or hear him express his innocence.

But Haley said the bill still is a good step forward in implementing safeguards against witness misidentification.

“This is a good start towards insuring consistent identification standards,” he said. “I am genuinely glad to see common sense legislation finally proceed that will improve public participation and accuracy in identification.”

The Innocence Project has studied the problem and says “eyewitness misidentification is the number one contributor to wrongful convictions.”

The nonprofit organization studied 337 cases of wrongful convictions and found that in 71 percent of them, 238, eyewitness misidentification played a part.

The study found that of the 238 wrongful convictions, 97 actual perpetrators were later identified. They had remained at large, in some cases committing more crimes, and were later convicted of 100 additional crimes including 64 rapes and 17 murders.

“Wrongful conviction is the gravest violation of personal liberty and also poses severe public safety risks, as the real perpetrator could remain on the street,” an Innocence Project news release said.

Comments

Michael Kort 1 year, 7 months ago

Good for Sen.Haley and the Innocence Project !!!

There is a famous video somewhere out there, where a Law school professor is lecturing students in a lecture hall, when suddenly an accomplice runs in thru a side door in the front of the hall holding a banana which he aims at the professor, while another accomplice in the front row slams a book shut . The professor fakes being shot, as his banana wielding accomplice runs back out the side door .

Of course, after a few moments, the professor admits to being unharmed and then asks the students for their descriptions of the attacker, what happened and to describe any weapon used ?

Can you say ....a gun was shot..... ( when a book was slammed shut loudly ) ...a gun that was never ever there, was fired ?.......Can you say blue steal revolver ( banana ) ?,.....chrome plated pistol ( banana ) ?

Consistently, the Law students got it wrong when trying to describe what had happened or the attackers description ! ........and a good professor had taught a valuable lesson to them all !

Because the video tape was there rolling to record it all for playback, so that the students could see exactly how unreliable eyewitness testimony could be....as in,...... their own eyewitness reports !

When things happen suddenly, the mind doesn't always store the facts very accurately !

When an innocent person is misidentified by an eye witness, as the bad guy, the real criminal is left out there to be free on the streets, to be a crook, or even worse, to commit murder, etc .....and the victum of misidentification will be deprived of their rights to their freedom and or buried under the costs of a legal defense and damage to their reputation, as they were charged ( and some will assume......guilty ) even if found innocent of the charges !

This legislation is the right thing to be do, to attempt to limit defective eyewitness identifications from happening, in a police line up .

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