Posts Tagged ‘reasons for exoneration’


Reasons for Exoneration: Witness Misidentification

Victoria Inzana — November 14, 2017 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (0)

In the past Reasons for Exoneration posts, we have focused on perjury and false accusations. These statements are typically made by a witness in an intentionally malicious manner. However, this is not always the case. These statements are known as a mistaken witness identification. According to Innocence Project research, eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful conviction. It has been found to have had a hand in wrongfully convicting about 70% of exonerees.

Despite the fact that research has proven that the human mind does not record events exactly as we see them, or recall them in exact chronological order, courts tend to find witness identifications to be very persuasive. This is why it makes up such a large percentage of wrongful convictions.

Some witness misidentification cases that the Innocence Project has worked on include a witness in a rape case being shown a photo array where the photograph of the suspect was the only photograph was marked with an “R”. Other cases include witnesses who “thought” the person “might be” the perpetrator when later, at trial, the jury was told that the witness had never wavered in their identification.

Because witness identification can be quite unreliable, there are many reforms which could be adopted to make it more accurate. Several procedures have been shown to significantly decrease the number of misidentifications such as:

  • Double- Blind/Blinded administration, where the officer administering the lineup is unaware of who the suspect is
  • A proper lineup composition, where the non-suspects in the lineup resemble the eyewitness’ description of the perpetrator, and the suspect appears similar to the fillers so he is not the only one of his race or facial hair
  • Standard Instructions, where the person viewing the lineup should be told that the perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup at that the investigation will continue regardless of the lineup result
  • Confidence Statements, which is a document that law enforcement will collect regarding the level of confidence the witness has in the identification made at the same time the identification is made.
  • Finally, a recording of procedures should be done whenever possible.

 

So far, 21 states and multiple jurisdictions have implemented these reforms.

The Innocence Project of Florida, partnering with the Innocence Project headquarters in New York, was also able to successfully pass a bill in April 2017 to reform eyewitness misidentification error here in the Florida Legislature. There is now a requirement that lineups are conducted using a double-blind or blinded procedure, and witnesses are instructed that the perpetrator may or may not be present. Should these practices be omitted, a court can consider noncompliance when deciding whether the identification can be admitted into evidence. The court must also instruct the jury that it consider whether law enforcement followed the eyewitness procedures when determining the reliability of a witness’s identification.

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Reasons for Exoneration: Perjury or False Accusation

Victoria Inzana — October 20, 2017 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Most people believe that the only reason innocent individuals are exonerated is due to new DNA evidence being revealed in their case. This blog series, Reasons for Exoneration, is intended to highlight the work that the Innocence Project accomplishes on cases that do not focus solely on DNA evidence.

This post is intended to focus on the role of perjury or false accusations in an exoneree’s trial. Perjury is known as the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. False accusations are when someone knowingly makes a charge of wrongdoing against another person. These perjury claims are usually proven based on a discrepancy between an initial deposition of a witness and their testimony on the stand. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 73 total exonerations in the year 2016 where perjury played a heavy role in the exoneration.

An example of a case occurred in Miami-Dade County. The defendant, Derrick Robinson had fit the description of a murderer, and so was arrested. During trial, there was an eyewitness who declared that Robinson was the killer. Robinson, who had claimed his innocence until trial had pled guilty to second-degree murder in 1989. After his conviction, another eye-witness came forward and identified a different man as the perpetrator. He revealed the actual perpetrator had threatened his family which leads to his false eye-witness report. After this new information was revealed, Robinson was exonerated in 1991.

If the testimony of the witness who had committed perjury or made a false accusation was an extremely large contribution to the initial conviction of our exonerate, and if it is possible for the representative of the Innocence Project to prove that perjury or a false accusation has happened, it is essential to an exoneree’s case.

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