Pa. Paper Examines Faulty Witness Identification


Jennifer Thompson, who misidentified a man as someone who raped her in 1984 in North Carolina, is speaking out around the nation about how the unreliability of witnesses’ memories can lead to false identifications, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. She says she is proof that an honest, well-meaning person can send an innocent one to prison.

In the first article in a series, the Post-Gazette says that crime victims are often quite poor at accurately remembering what a criminal looked like. Experts say most police and prosecutors are using techniques that raise the odds that witnesses will identify the wrong person. Yeshiva University’s Innocence Project says that of the 157 people nationwide it has helped exonerate through DNA evidence, nearly 80 percent were convicted based on eyewitness identifications. In New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia and a few counties in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, police are implementing federal guidelines on the best way to conduct photo lineups and using scientifically tested techniques to prevent unjust convictions.


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