Derrick Williams was exonerated in Manatee County just this week after 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Derrick’s conviction was due in large part to eyewitness misidentification. If law enforcement had had best practices in place at the time, it is highly likely that Derrick would not have been misidentified, and thus not wrongfully convicted.
This bill provides for:
- double-blind administration of line-ups using an independent administrator to prevent influencing the witness’s selection, however inadvertently;
- cost-effective alternatives to the independent administrator;
- standard instructions for eyewitnesses before viewing the line-ups; and
- educational materials and training programs for law enforcement on how to conduct line-ups.
Right now, it looks like the bill will pass through the Senate. We have grave concerns, however, about the House bill (HB 821). HB 821 has not been placed on the calendar for consideration by the Judiciary Committee. If the bill is not “calendared”, it will die in Committee. The committee meets early next week, so we need your help no later than Friday April 8th.
Call to Action
We are asking you, as someone who cares about justice and ending wrongful convictions, to call Representative William Snyder, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, at 850-488-8832 (Capitol office) or 772-221-4904 (District office.) Thank him for his work on the Florida Innocence Commission and support of this important bill, and ask him to get the bill on the Committee’s calendar for consideration. Please call no later than Friday, April 8th as the Committee meets early next week, and they will have to calendar it.
Additional Information About the Bills
This is a fiscally neutral bill. When cost is a consideration, the bill allows law enforcement to use an alternative method, like the folder shuffle, to administer a photo lineup. Lineup photos are simply placed in manila folders, shuffled, and then shielded from the administrator’s view while the eyewitness looks at them. Effecting blind administration carries a price tag of a few manila folders.
In fact, this bill promises to save Florida money. In the three DNA exonerations that were cleanly tied to misidentification (i.e. no other contributing factors), the State has already paid out more than $3 million.
This is a law and order bill: We know how to achieve accurate identifications, but law enforcement is not using these best practices, and failing to do so puts public safety at peril. The real perpetrators in more than 100 DNA exoneration cases have now been identified. These real perpetrators went on to be convicted of more than 20 murders and 60 rapes that took place while the innocent person languished behind bars. Although this is a national statistic, there is no reason to think this pattern stops at any state borders.
Again, we urge you to call Representative William Snyder, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, at 850-488-8832 (Capitol office) or 772-221-4904 (District office) and ask him to please calendar HB 821. Thank you.