The New Jersey Supreme Court shook law enforcement agencies across the country last month when it decried the “troubling lack of reliability” in police lineup procedures. As reported by the New York Times, mistakes in eyewitness identification procedures have lead to an almost inconceiveable percentage of false convictions.
A new study claims to have one potential solution to the problems surrounding these evidentiary bombshells which are consistently unreliable, yet so commonly used in securing a conviction.
“Sequential Double-Blind” is the procedure de jour. Instead of the investigating officer showing a selection of 6 pictures to the witness, an officer with no knowledge of the case should show the witness the images one at a time. The benefits, according to the study, include the elimination of subtle, if unintentional hints from the officer as well as the witnesses focusing more on what they remember, rather than trying to compare the photos and selecting the best of the bunch.
The study claims that incorrect identification of the “filler” pictures dropped from 18 percent to 12 percent when testing traditional “simultaneous” lineups with the “sequential double-blind.”
Even so, many law enforcement agencies are resistant to modification of their “tried and true” procedures – even though those methods have come under more and more criticism like that from the New Jersey Supreme Court. And the criticism is rightfully placed:
The fallibility of eyewitness identification is well known; 75 percent of the more than 250 convictions overturned based on DNA evidence involved mistaken identifications.
John Schwartz – The New York Post