Mistaken identity can lead to erroneous convictions in MI

Studies show that the eyewitness identification process has flaws that may lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.

Even people who are completely innocent of committing violent crimes may become the victim of mistaken identity and sentenced to prison. Unfortunately, this is what has happened to a number of people across the United States. Although studies show that eyewitness identification procedures provide unreliable results, many courts allow eyewitness testimony and identification as evidence in a criminal trial. This can lead to the wrongful incrimination of innocent people in Michigan and throughout the nation.

A study published on PBS.org researched the effect of eyewitness testimony on a jury during a criminal case. In the first scenario the jury was presented circumstantial evidence regarding a crime. Approximately 18 percent of the jurors found the defendant guilty of the crime. In the second scenario, the same circumstantial evidence was presented. Yet in this case, an eyewitness testimony was given that placed the defendant at the scene of the crime. Surprisingly, 72 percent of the jurors agreed that the defendant was guilty.

Released from prison

According to the Innocence Project, 329 people have been exonerated from prison after DNA evidence showed that they were actually innocent of the crime. Eyewitness misidentification contributed to approximately 75 percent of the cases that were later overturned. These victims of eyewitness misidentification were wrongfully convicted of violent crimes, including rape and murder, and lost a considerable part of their lives because of procedural flaws in the system.

The lineup process

There are many errors in the lineup process that can potentially lead to a misidentification. Lineup administrators may unintentionally lead witnesses to choose certain suspects from the lineup or make comments indicating that the witness had made the right choice. The people used in lineup procedures should have characteristics that are similar to the perpetrator. For example, if the suspect is said to have a beard and tattoos, there should be more than one person in the lineup with these physical characteristics.

Ways to improve the system

According to the American Bar Association, there are several ways that Michigan law enforcement can minimize the risk of eyewitness misidentification during the lineup procedure. These include:

  • The lineup administrator should have no prior knowledge of the suspect or crime.
  • The entire process should be recorded.
  • The witness should be told that the suspect may or may not be included in the lineup.
  • The lineup should be organized so that the suspect does not stick out from the others.

Details regarding the witness and the crime scene should also be taken into account. This includes how far the witness was standing from the perpetrator at the crime scene, what type of lighting was present and the amount of time that has passed since the crime occurred.

Partnering with an attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, you may be overwhelmed with the severe penalties you'll face if convicted. It is crucial to partner with a criminal defense attorney in Michigan who has a thorough knowledge of state and federal laws.

Keywords: eyewitness, identification, wrongful, conviction