- The most common cause of wrongful conviction is eyewitness misidentification. Its unreliability can send an innocent person to prison for years and even has sent many to their death. There could be many reasons why the eyewitness made a mistake in identifying the accused. Eyewitness may be mistaken for many reasons, not all of which involve faulty memory. The witness may not have gotten a clear view of the person or was not paying close attention. They were overwhelmed by the experience, or being influenced by others. From the moment an eyewitness interacts with the criminal justices system her memory (which is a form of evidence) is at risk even from the well-intentioned questions of law enforcement officers. (Theinnocentproject)
- Human perception is selective and constructive. When a person is a witness to a crime or accident they rely on memory to describe what they saw. The problem with that is memory is a reconstructive process. When an eyewitness recalls a crime he/she must reconstruct his/her memory of the crime. To reconstruct a memory the eyewitness draws upon several sources of information only one being his or her actual recollection. The witness relies on his/her expectations, attitudes, prejudices, bias and prior knowledge (Schneier) which is often times inaccurate. The memory is further distorted during the investigation when suggestive questioning is used. Each time a person relive the crime, either out loud to an investigator or in one’s own head, that distorted memory is strengthened. (Livescience)
- According to the law enforcement code of ethics law enforcement personnel hold the following as fundamental duties: serving human kind; safeguarding people and property; protecting the weak, innocent and peaceful; and respecting the constitutional rights of all. Interrogations must specifically respect and guard the rights of criminals, suspects, interest parties and victims. The law enforcement code of ethics also requires officers to perform their duties without bias or prejudice despite any personal issues or feelings, interrogators must strive to exhibit fairness in all their dealings. If a situation arises that could appear to be a conflict of interest, the interrogator must inform his supervisor so the situation can be addressed appropriately. (Ehow)
Every suspect deserves fairness, fairness, impartiality, reliability, and suggestiveness from law enforcement and jury alike and there are standard procedures that are followed to ensure that each suspected is treated fairly and misidentification doesn’t happen. DNA profiling (also called DNA testing, DNA typing, or genetic fingerprinting) is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles. DNA profiling can play a crucial role in solving crimes, as it has the potential to link a series of crimes and/or to place a suspect at the scene of a crime. Just as importantly, DNA can help to prove a suspect’s innocence. PHOTOGRAPHIC — Besides lineups and show-ups, this is the third most common way police identify someone. Witnesses are shown mug shots or photographs to identify or eliminate suspects. Witnesses who delay in coming forward are also allowed to view videotapes of any previous lineups held for other witnesses. If a witness randomly looks through mug shots, it’s called a photographic display. If the police select certain pictures for them to look at, it’s called a photographic array. (Police Identification procedures)
Knowingly or unknowingly innocent people are sent to prison by eyewitnesses because of misidentification. There are a number of reasons for this happening maybe visibility conditions may be poor – low light, poor weather, etc. even under good visibility humans are poor at facial identification. or the procedures used to obtain the identification may be biased. Whatever the case maybe it is imperative that law enforcement follow the proper procedures to prevent that from happening.