Lineups may produce unreliable results in a MN court case

Although there are flaws in the eyewitness identification process, these IDs are admissible in court and may lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.

A number of courts in Minnesota and across the country allow the use of eyewitness identification and testimony as admissible evidence in a criminal trial. Studies show that this information, however, is inherently unreliable and may be inaccurate. According to the Innocence Project, 330 people were exonerated from their prison sentences after they were found to be innocent of the crime they were convicted of. Of these cases, 70 percent involved people who were misidentified by an eyewitness. Countless more people wait behind bars, hoping that DNA evidence will prove their innocence as well.

When eyewitness IDs go wrong

According to the American Bar Association, there are many factors that reduce the reliability of eyewitness identifications and testimony. Flaws in the lineup process make up just a portion of the fallibilities; however, these errors are indicative of a much larger problem.

Lineup administrators who have prior knowledge of a crime may inadvertently or intentionally guide witnesses to select a certain person out of the lineup. This may be done by making a simple comment before or after the witness makes a choice. In order to prevent this from happening, lineups should be conducted by blind administrators, or people who have no former knowledge of the crime. Witnesses should be told that the perpetrator may or may not be included in the lineup. In some states, lineup procedures must be taped and made available to the prosecution, defense and the judge presiding over a criminal case.

Problems can also occur when a lineup is not organized properly. For example, if a victim said that his or her perpetrator was bald and had a tattoo, there should be more than one person included in the lineup that has those characteristics. In photo lineups, all of the pictures should be similar in size and have the same color. If one picture is in color and the others are in black and white, the witness may be more likely to choose the picture that is different.

Other factors to consider

Other factors that people should consider when looking at the accuracy of eyewitness identification include the following:

  • How much time has passed from when the crime occurred until the time the witness was asked to make an ID?
  • How much lighting was present when the crime occurred?
  • What was the distance between the witness and the perpetrator?
  • Was the perpetrator wearing a disguise or mask?
  • Was a weapon used during the crime?

These factors could result in a misidentification and possibly, a wrongful conviction.

Getting reliable legal counsel

People who have been charged with a crime may be scared, overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn to next. You need someone who is able to answer your questions and help you explore your legal options. A criminal attorney in Minnesota can listen to the details of your case, and may be able to formulate a strong defense.