The Police Lineup Is Becoming Suspect Practice
Several states recently targeted the side-by-side police lineup, a venerable tool used by police departments across the country to help victims and witnesses pick out crime suspects, for elimination.
DNA testing recently exonerated some suspects picked out by eyewitnesses, who were wrongly convicted, and this fuels initiatives aimed at replacing side-by-side lineups with “blind sequential lineups,” which calls for suspects to be shown to eyewitnesses one at a time.
In addition, the blind sequential lineup system requires a “blind” lineup administrator–someone who knows nothing about the case–to handle the process. Supporters suggest that a blind administrator would eliminate unintentional influences, such as a knowledgeable administrator suggesting to the eyewitness “take another look at No. 5.”
Police departments in Boston and Minneapolis, for example, already use “blind” lineups to reduce eyewitness identification errors, which a University of Michigan study indicated accounted for 90 percent of all mistakes in rape convictions posted in 2004.
Most police officials and prosecutors resist changes to the side-by-side lineup system, but lawmakers in Georgia, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, and Vermont have legislation pending that would mandate these changes.
However, some state officials are concerned that changes to police lineups will result in further litigation from convicted suspects claiming eyewitnesses falsely identified them.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) from the Christian Science Monitor (02/06/07); Jonsson, Patrik.