You already know the answer to the above-posed blog query, right?
Although a lineup in which an alleged eyewitness points firmly and immediately to a particular individual as the perpetrator of criminal behavior can sometimes seem to be on unshakably solid ground (e.g, “I was standing right in front of him when I saw him drop the bag of drugs and run”), most of us reasonably know that eyewitness identifications are anything but infallible.
And we know that because of this: the already existing and progressively growing mountain of evidence that has subsequently proven identifications in given cases — thousands of cases — to be wrong.
And that is a scary reality, no?
And for obvious reasons. It’s one thing to falsely identity a third party for his or her perceived involvement in a matter where the error yields no adverse consequences for that person.
It’s another thing altogether when a wrong identification lands that individual behind bars.
And then there’s this, of course: Individuals unjustly convicted of crimes based on eyewitness identification are sometimes never released from that confinement. Sometimes they languish for decades in prison, dying there. And, in some dramatic instances, the state takes their lives.
Naysayers who contend that misplaced identifications are nothing more than a minor and exceptionally rare blip on the radar screen of America’s criminal justice system would be, well, wrong.
According to statistics compiled by myriad and unrelated sources, including the national advocacy organization Innocence Project, it is the erroneous proclamations of people who say they saw something that wrongly puts many defendants behind bars in the first place.
In fact, notes the Innocence Project, more than seven of every 10 convictions that are overturned across the United States based upon exonerating DNA evidence involve eyewitness misidentification.
A lot more can be said on that matter. We will take a look in our next blog post at some of the findings indicating why eyewitness IDs are often found to be problematic, along with recommendations offered to improve identifications and help curb wrongful convictions.