As a handful of police departments from Boston to Minneapolis have changed lineup procedures to help reduce tragic identification errors, resistance to top-down reform from police chiefs and prosecutors elsewhere is pushing the debate into the legislative chamber, says the Christian Science Monitor. A proposed Georgia bill would scrap the side-by-side police lineup, and would require police departments to present suspects one by one, either in person or by photo. Texas, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Vermont have similar bills pending.
Some experts say the new procedure limits inaccurate “relative judgments” victims make during a lineup. Police counter that they do not want to be forced to use a practice that they say would undermine proved techniques detectives use. “You can start to see a move now in policymaking and the decisions that prosecutors are making about how they elicit evidence,” says Christian Meissner of the Investigative Interviewing Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at El Paso. “The involvement of legislatures is an attempt to get prosecutors to realize that these are real issues that need to be addressed.” Since 1992, 194 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence; 75 percent of the convictions involved at least one faulty eyewitness identification, says the Innocence Project, which works to clear those who are falsely imprisoned.