A highly-anticipated report released today (and reported on in The New York Times) shows that the Innocence Project’s recommended procedures for conducting eyewitness lineups are more accurate than other methods. The report has significant implications for reducing wrongful convictions within the United States criminal justice system. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of the 273 convictions overturned through DNA testing.
The report describes field studies conducted by the American Judicature Society, in collaboration with the Police Foundation, the Innocence Project, and the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. The police departments of Austin (TX), Tucson (AZ), San Diego (CA), and Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) all participated in the research, which began in 2008. The officers collected detailed information on lineup procedures and outcomes to determine the most accurate methods.
Analysis of the data showed that double-blind sequential lineups — where the administering officer doesn’t know which person is the suspect, and the witness views one person or photograph at a time — produce fewer mistaken identifications than lineups that present all of the suspects simultaneously. The study also found that sequential lineups resulted in the same number of correct suspect identifications as simultaneous lineups.