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Eyewitness Misidentification Responsible for Wrongful Incarceration in FL

Eyewitness misidentification and flawed lineup procedures are responsible for sending innocent people to prison.

While the majority of people in prison are guilty of committing a crime, there are some prisoners who are innocent of the violent crimes they are accused of committing. Since 1989, 325 people across the country have been released from prison after DNA evidence proved their innocence, as reported by the Innocence Project. At least 20 people had spent time on death row before they were set free. After hearing this, many Americans are left wondering how many other innocent people still remain behind bars and how did the U.S. criminal justice system put them there in the first place.

Eyewitness misidentification

Although there are several flaws in the U.S. judicial system responsible for sending innocent people to prison, eyewitness misidentification is the most common, according to the Innocence Project. Inaccurate eyewitness identification and testimony was involved in 72 percent of the cases that were overturned by DNA evidence. This phenomenon has been the subject of multiple studies, which have revealed that procedures used during the lineup process may be to blame for some of these injustices, among other things.

Lineups can lead to wrongful convictions

Florida law enforcement agencies use physical and photographic lineups as a way to help identify suspects that have committed a crime. However, when the lineups are not conducted properly, an eyewitness may unintentionally choose an innocent person from the lineup.

The American Bar Association states that when a lineup is not organized properly, it may lead the witness to choose the wrong person. It is crucial that the lineup is organized so that there are several people with similar characteristics. For example, if the suspect was said to have had a moustache, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a moustache. When the lineup administrator knows who the potential suspect is, they may unintentionally give verbal or nonverbal cues as to who the witness should choose.

Florida lineup procedures

In order to minimize the risk of eyewitness misidentification during the lineup process, Florida law enforcement agencies enforce certain standards of physical and photographic lineup procedures. These include:

  • Lineup administrators must follow a standard script when dealing with witnesses, and must inform witnesses that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup.
  • Witnesses' comments during the lineup must be documented for further use in court.
  • Lineup administrators must not say or do anything that might influence the witness's choice.
  • Standard methods must be used when creating the lineup and choosing the people who are involved in the lineup procedure.
  • All lineup administrators must be properly trained.

Errors in human memory, racial discrepancies and environmental factors also play a crucial role in selecting an innocent person from a lineup. These may all lead to wrongful imprisonment.

How an attorney can help

People who face serious criminal charges may feel overwhelmed by a potential conviction. A criminal attorney who has a thorough knowledge of Florida law may be helpful in exploring all of your defense options. They may be able to aggressively defend your case in a Florida court of law.

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