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Identifying flaws in the eyewitness lineup

Not all people who are chosen from an eyewitness lineup are guilty of committing a crime. In fact, a surprising number of people in Ohio and across the country have been erroneous selected from an eyewitness lineup and consequently convicted of a crime. How are so many people wrongfully chosen from an eyewitness lineup? Certain procedural flaws and disorganization in arranging the lineup may be to blame.

According to the American Bar Association, the lineup administrator may unintentionally lead a witness to select a certain person from the lineup. Lineup administrators should be double-blind, or have no previous knowledge of the crime. Furthermore, there should be more than one person in the lineup that matches the suspect’s identity. For example, if the perpetrator was said to have a beard and wearing a hat, there should be more than one person in the lineup that has a beard and is wearing a hat.

Witnesses should also be told that the suspect may or may not be included in the lineup, and they should not be forced to make a selection if they do not feel confident about their choice. Whenever possible, eyewitness lineups should be taped so that they may be reviewed by officials in the future if needed.

According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification is involved in at least 70 percent of wrongful convictions in the U.S. It is crucial that law enforcement departments across the country put procedures in place to minimize the risk of eyewitness misidentification and wrongful conviction.

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