Chicago Tests Rules To Prevent Witness ID Errors


Chicago detectives are following new rules for police lineups under a pilot program intended to reduce the chances of their behavior’s prompting witnesses to identify a particular suspect, reports the Chicago Tribune. Under the guidelines, a police officer showing people or photographs to a witness cannot be an investigator on the case or know which person is the suspect. Witnesses see only one potential suspect at a time instead of choosing from several at once.

Former Gov. George Ryan’s Commission on Capital Punishment recommended the change in a 2002 report on death penalty reform. The intent of the guidelines is to eliminate false identifications of suspects, especially those tainted by police suggesting a certain person, either intentionally or unintentionally. The more stringent method should make lineup identifications more ironclad in the long run, said Rob Warden of Northwestern University Law School’s Justice Project. “The important thing is that eyewitness error has been involved in 80 percent of erroneous convictions in sexual assault cases,” he said. “It’s not always intentional. We’re not accusing the police of doing anything wrong. But erroneous eyewitness ID’s are a problem even when everything is done right.”


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