There have been huge advances in DNA testing in clearing hundreds of individuals who were falsely charged with crimes. Sometimes these unfortunate people spent decades behind bars despite their innocence, including the White Sox groundskeeper who was released in 2017. Law enforcement officials in a growing list of states and organizations are now taking steps to reduce the number of false IDs from line-up, including Massachusetts.
Eyewitnesses no longer considered completely reliable
Starting as far back as the 1930s, a number of different researchers have chronicling the challenges of using eyewitnesses. Witness’s often don’t have the ability to accurately identify someone of race different from their own. Judges are aware of this problem and will sometimes instruct jurors about the problem with cross-racial eyewitness identifications. This is backed up by the fact is that over 70 percent of the 350 wrongful convictions where DNA evidence overturned the case involved eyewitness identification.
Memory can be influenced after the fact
It has also now become clear that witnesses don’t accurately remember how events occurred. Law enforcement is now acknowledging that memory can later be influenced by stimuli when the witness looks at a lineup. This can include:
- Law enforcement’s body language during a lineup
- How the lineup is conducted
- How instructions are explained to a witness
Attorney can protect your rights even after a positive ID
Innocent people sometimes end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their innocence is often threatened by predetermined conclusions and stereotyping. Judges are almost always aware of these issues, yet the prosecution can still build a case. Having an attorney who understands criminal law and how it works here in Massachusetts will help prevent bias against you or a loved one who has been charged.