Five years ago, a rape conviction that was overturned as a result of DNA evidence put New Jersey at the forefront of what has become a new national crime-fighting tool, says NorthJersey.com. Responding to accusations of racist and ineffective investigative methods, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office It phased out the traditional lineup long depicted in movies, in which people are asked to select from a row of suspects standing behind a one-way mirror, or choose from an array of photos. The new method required police investigators to show one person, or photo, at a time. The thinking was that the “sequential lineups” would prompt victims or witnesses to compare suspects to actual memory rather than to other suspects, reducing false identifications.
State authorities now say that may not be enough. Attorney General Zulima Farber will revisit the identification method as a result of a recent report that questioned the fairness of sequential lineups. A study by the Illinois State Police found that people were more likely to select the wrong person if they looked at them one at a time. One expert is dubious: “I have some pretty serious concerns with the Illinois study,” said Gary L. Wells, a professor at Iowa State University and a leading expert on eyewitness identification. “The results somehow seem way out of sync when you compare it to other studies. Some defense attorneys believe the discussions on eyewitness identification should prompt investigators to do away with photo lineups. “Any kind of photo lineup is inherently unreliable,” said Hackensack defense lawyer Joseph Rem. “People make observations when they are in the middle of the greatest trauma of their lives, when they are raped or on the wrong end of a gun barrel. So they are not focusing on their assailant’s face.