Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Virginia Commission Reviews Eye Witness Identification Procedures

The Virginia State Crime Commission is looking at reforming the way police do eyewitness lineups to identify suspects, according to

This week, commission members will listen to testimony regarding the reliability of eye witness identification. The commission will then consider whether the state should require local law enforcement agencies to adopt reforms such as sequential lineups--showing witnesses pictures of possible suspects one at a time, rather than grouping pictures together.

The commission is the result of a legislative movement toward reforming lineup procedures, sparked by data showing that eyewitnesses aren't always reliable, and that reforms in lineup procedures could make it less likely that a witness will name the wrong person reported

There is a body of research that is critical of traditional lineups that group potential suspects together. Witnesses tend to compare the people in the lineup with each other and choose the one who looks most like the perpetrator, rather than comparing each person with the witness's own memory.

Additional reforms include requiring that lineups be done by a member of the police force who does not know which one of the group is the real suspect, so that person cannot give any inadvertent cues to the witness.

Another suggestion is for police to have a standard statement instructing the witness that the perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup, so that the witness feels less compelled to choose one of the people in the lineup.

In Virginia some law enforcement agencies, including the state police, have already adopted the sequential lineup procedure, after a recommendation from the state Department of Criminal Justice several years ago, according to

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