New Orleans Police Department detectives who investigate rapes, murders, and robberies find themselves taking part in an unprecedented experiment, reports The Advocate. Under pressure from the federal government to reform, a police force with an alarming record of putting innocent people behind bars has called in an unlikely pair of teachers: two attorneys from the Innocence Project New Orleans, a group best known for freeing the wrongfully convicted. Perhaps no other place needs this education like New Orleans. Louisiana has the second-highest rate of exonerations of people who were wrongly convicted of any state, says the National Registry on Exonerations. Orleans Parish has the highest exoneration rate of any major U.S. county or parish.
“We are like an airline that has historically had the most crashes,” said Emily Maw of the Innocence Project. “It would be really weird of us not to want to look at what led to those crashes.” Nationally, more than 1,900 people have been exonerated since 1989, thanks in part to DNA technology and psychological research on false confessions. In Orleans Parish, 18 people have been freed. At the training, Maw and a colleague walked through a litany of mistakes that can lead to a wrongful conviction. To illustrate a point about the unreliability of witness identification, they played a quick, shaky video of a dodgy-looking man setting a bomb. Minutes later, the detectives were asked to pick the bomber out of a lineup. The results weren’t good, even for this group of seasoned investigators. Only three of 39 got the answer right.