95 Judicature 105 (2011-2012)
Eyewitness Identification Reform

handle is hein.journals/judica95 and id is 105 raw text is: Eyewitness
identification reform
Landmark study gives law
enforcement better tools to
reduce errors
The September execution of Georgia
inmate Troy Davis compels us to
consider the unthinkable: whether
a state's criminal justice system has
put to death a person innocent of
the crimes for which they were con-
victed. The execution, based almost
exclusively on eyewitness identifica-
tion evidence, came the same week
the American Judicature Society
(AJS) released a national field study
on eyewitness identification that
has major implications for reducing
wrongful convictions in the United
The two events reinforce the
importance of employing the most
reliable tools available to us in the
administration of justice. A Test of
the Simultaneous vs. Sequential Lineup
Methods: An Initial Report of the AJS
National Eyewitness Identification
Field Studies, describes eyewitness
identification procedures that can
counter a leading cause of wrong-
ful convictions nationwide: the mis-
identification of suspects in police
Lineups are an age-old tool used
by law enforcement to convict the
guilty and exonerate the innocent.
The technique is simple and straight-
forward; the eyewitness views a
lineup in which the suspect is embed-
ded among fillers. The presumption
is that if the suspect is guilty, the

witness will identify the suspect-
whereas if the suspect is innocent
the witness will identify no one.
However, eyewitness identifica-
tion evidence is not always reli-
able. DNA-based exonerations of the
innocent show that 75% are cases
involving mistaken eyewitness iden-
tifications. Psychologists have been
conducting laboratory studies on
this problem for more than 30 years,
and have proposed a number of pos-
sible reforms to the procedures used
in conducting lineups.
AJS, in collaboration with the
Police Foundation, the Innocence
Project, and the Center for Problem-
Oriented  Policing,  implemented
this national field study at four law
enforcement agencies to determine
which lineup method-sequential
(witness views lineup  members
one at a time) or simultaneous (all
lineup members are.presented as a
group)-is more accurate. The study
was designed to correct some of the
problems in a 2006 Illinois study
that later was found to have used
flawed methodology. Unlike that
study, which attempted to compare
double-blind sequential lineups to
non-blind simultaneous lineups, all
of the lineups in the AJS study were
conducted double-blind, meaning the
officer administering the lineup did
not know the suspect's identity, and
the witness was told that the officer
did not know. Additionally, the wit-
nesses or victims in the AJS study did
not know they were part of an actual
study and were randomly assigned
to either a simultaneous or sequen-
tial procedure.
Iowa State University Professor
of Psychology Dr. Gary L. Wells, the

study's lead scientist and director of
social sciences for the (AJS) Center
for Forensic Science and Public
Policy, established long ago that eye-
witness identification of suspects in
police lineups is much more prone to
error than people think. Part of the
problem stems from the standard
procedure in which lineup members
are presented as a group. When
lineup members are presented as a
group, witnesses tend to compare
the members to each other, to figure
out who looks most like the perpe-
trator and then identify that person.
But, if the actual perpetrator is not in
the lineup, there remains someone
who looks more like the perpetra-
tor than the others, and that person
is at risk of being mistakenly identi-
fied. The sequential lineup method,
which  presents lineup  members
one at a time to the witness, tends
to prevent the mere comparison of
one lineup member to another and
instead forces witnesses to compare
each lineup member to their memory
of the perpetrator.
Controlled laboratory studies,
which are based on simulated crimes,
have consistently found that sequen-
tial lineups produce a better ratio of
accurate identifications to mistaken
identifications than the double-blind
simultaneous procedure. Neverthe-
less, many police departments have
been hesitant to change their pro-
cedures based on laboratory find-
ings alone. An important difference
between  laboratory  studies and
field studies that examine actual
criminal cases is that the identity
of the perpetrator is not necessar-
ily known in the actual criminal
cases. Although the identification of
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