A California commission on reforming the criminal justice system proposed significant changes yesterday in the use of eyewitness identification in court, citing problems, particularly with cross-racial identifications, that have led to exonerations of prisoners, the Los Angeles Times reports. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, chaired by former state Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp, cited statistics from the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York that more than 77 percent of inmates cleared since 1989 were convicted based on mistaken eyewitness identifications.
The commission made a dozen recommendations, including changes in methods of witness identification using lineups or photo arrays. The commission has no power to enforce new practices; local jurisdictions set their own policies. Some jurisdictions have adopted them with positive results, the report said. Santa Clara University law Prof. Gerald Uelmen, the commission’s executive director, expects the 18-member panel to investigate false confessions, perjured testimony, mishandling of forensic evidence, withholding of exculpatory evidence, and incompetent defense lawyers between now and Dec. 31, 2007, the deadline for its final report.