NACDL supports changes in eyewitness procedures that are proven to improve the reliability of eyewitness testimony without impeding police investigations. Among the most important reforms is the adoption “double blind” sequential lineup procedures, which means that suspects are shown one by one to the witness, which reduces the possibility of the witness picking the person who looks most like the culprit. This also means that the procedure is conducted by a police officer who does not know the identity of the suspect, which thus prevents the officer from unconsciously or consciously providing cues to the witness.
Eyewitness ID Legislative Tracking
In 2019, New Mexico and Oklahoma's state legislatures passed eyewitness identification measures. New Mexico's HB 342 requires training for law enforcement in the area of eyewitness identification. Oklahoma's SB 798 now requires all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt a written policy on eyewitness identification procedures, including blind administration of lineups/photo arrays.
View legislation related to eyewitness identification reform that NACDL is currently tracking.
Below, please find information on newly released reports and other resources.
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- "N.J. cops misused mugshots to ID suspect, top court rules,"
- "New Louisiana law on eyewitness identification aims to reduce wrongful convictions,"
- "Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and police and lawmakers know it,"
Eyewitness ID News Releases
News Release ~ 09/22/2011
A Message from NACDL President Lisa Wayne: Politics Killed Troy Davis Last Night - Washington, DC (Sept. 22, 2011) -- The death penalty is an emotional issue, of course. Strong feelings on both sides are genuine and understandable. What we know is, more than 75 percent of the death row inmates exonerated by DNA testing were convicted on the basis of eyewitness misidentification.
News Release ~ 03/03/2010
Criminal Defense Bar Secures Sweeping Reversal in Illinois Eyewitness Identification Litigation Concerning Flawed Lineups Linked to More than 50 Wrongful Convictions - Washington, DC (March 3, 2010) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has been fighting in the Illinois courts since Feb. 2007 to secure access to data and other materials related to the Chicago Police Department’s controversial, taxpayer-funded report on lineups and eyewitness procedures.
News Release ~ 02/08/2007
National Legal Group Files Lawsuit Challenging Illinois Police Defense of Traditional Lineups - Chicago, IL (February 8, 2007) – Citing wrongful convictions due to mistaken eyewitness identification and the urgent need to reform traditional police eyewitness identification procedures, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), in conjunction with the MacArthur Justice Center of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law, filed a civil lawsuit today against the Illinois police departments who participated in a controversial study of eyewitnesses...
Eyewitness ID Champion Articles
Confronting the Problems of Manson v. Brathwaite
Scientifically Sound Approaches to Suppression in Eyewitness Identification Cases
The Manson v. Brathwaite test for the admissibility of challenged eyewitness identification evidence is flawed. As a result, courts routinely allow the admission of tainted identification evidence. Decided in 1977, Manson is not in accord with subsequent scientific research into eyewitness fallibility. Defense attorneys must adopt creative strategies to seek suppression and force courts to consider both the science and Manson’s flaws.
Challenging Facial Recognition Software in Criminal Court
If an image of a perpetrator exists on a cellphone camera, video surveillance, body camera footage or social media, law enforcement can use facial recognition software to attempt to identify the person in the photo. Defense attorney Kaitlin Jackson discusses the limitations of facial recognition, and she explains how to determine if police used facial recognition in a defendant’s case. Facial recognition software is difficult to challenge, but ways exist to attack its reliability.
Sources of Contamination in Lineup Identifications
Eyewitness identification is not infallible. Indeed, in about half of known cases of wrongful conviction, at least one eyewitness mistakenly identified the innocent suspect as the perpetrator. Professor Brian Cutler focuses on events that can contaminate lineup identifications. He discusses two general situations in which the lineup identification might not be compelling inculpatory evidence: (1) when the lineup is not the first time the eyewitness identified the suspect and (2) when the eyewitness is able to guess the suspect’s identity.