Urban Institute To Lead Eyewitness Identification Study

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Dallas County has gained notoriety for admitting it has sent more innocent people to prison than any other county in recent years: 13 people have been exonerated by DNA testing since 2001. Notoriously unreliable eyewitness testimony was relied on in at least 11 of the cases, says the Dallas Morning News. ]

Now Dallas will be one of several cities taking part in a study that seeks to come up with the best possible way to confirm eyewitness identifications. The $300,000 federally funded study will be led by the Washington-based Urban Institute beginning in January.

Nationwide, at least 200 criminal convictions have been overturned because people were shown to be innocent through analysis of DNA evidence, said Terence Dunworth, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Most law enforcement agencies, including Dallas, have favored a traditional identification method in which six photos are shown simultaneously to the victim or witness by an investigator who knows the identity of the suspected guilty party. Many psychologists liken that to a multiple choice test where “none of the above doesn’t seem like a possible answer,” said James Doyle of the Center for Modern Forensic Practice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “What the psychologists believe is happening is that witnesses will pick out the person who looks most like the perpetrator by comparing the people in the array to each other,” he said.


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