Colman v. Alabama, a witness said, “That man there is the one. He’s the one
that shot me.” According to the
Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, “That man there is in trouble. Big trouble. Even if he didn’t
fire the shot, he could easily be found guilty at trial because a witness’s
positive identification of a suspect at a lineup.”
While police lineups have been valuable tools for detectives in criminal
investigations, unfortunately they involve a margin of error. Eyewitness
identifications are not 100% foolproof; therefore, a witness’s error
has the potential to lead to a wrongful conviction.
In the words of the
California Innocence Project, “One of the main causes of wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification.
Despite a high rate of error (as many as 1 in 4 stranger eyewitness identifications
are wrong), eyewitness identifications are considered some of the most
powerful evidence against a suspect.” Why the high rate of error?
According to the California Innocence Project, it’s because of the
- Witnesses are prone to anxiety or high levels of stress;
- Since humans cannot record memories like a video recorder, they tend to
- Witnesses tend to zero in on weapons as opposed to the identities of perpetrators;
- Police can use suggestive eyewitness procedures that persuade witnesses
to identifying a specific suspect; and
- Cross-racial eyewitness identifications are incredibly suspicious.
“An in-court eyewitness identification of a perpetrator is incredibly
powerful to a jury,” says the California Innocence Project. It goes
on to say that with the exception of DNA evidence, nothing is more damming
for a defendant than a witness telling the jury that the defendant committed
a crime. Sometimes, however, a witness is mistaken.
Different Types of Lineups in California
In California, the main types of lineups used by detectives include: 1)
live lineups at police stations and jails, 2) recorded lineups (where
a live lineup is recorded and later shown to a witness), 3) photographic
lineups (where booking and DMV photos are shown to a witness), and 4)
voice-only lineups (where the witness listens to suspects’ voices
but does not see their faces).
Are you the subject of a criminal investigation in Orange County? If so,
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