Texas Advances Bill To Prevent Eyewitness Identification Errors


A Texas House committee has approved a measure meant to streamline eyewitness identification procedures, reports the Dallas Morning News. Under the legislation, police departments would have to adopt uniform standards for eyewitness identification. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved the bill unanimously after hearing from criminal justice officials and emotional testimony from half a dozen exonerees who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

James Giles, a Dallas man exonerated in 2007, said he was picked out of a lineup and accused of rape, although he had never seen the victim before. He spent 10 years in prison and 14 years as a registered sex offender on parole. Policies for gathering eyewitness identification would have to be based on scientific research on memory, along with policies and guidelines developed by the federal government and other states. Policies would have to address the selection of photographs, lineup filler photographs or participants and instruction given to witnesses. The Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University would create a model policy to be distributed to local law enforcement agencies. Texas has had 42 exonerations, 38 in cases that had been based on false eyewitness identification. Four states — Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Wisconsin — have implemented legislation similar to the eyewitness identification bill.

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