“At the present time, there is no definitive sense that one form of lineup presentation (comparing simultaneous and sequential) is superior to the other.”
(See 1st web link below for further discussion of the research.)
Some police departments think the best practices may be too burdensome or interfere with other aspects of the investigation. For example, requiring a blind administrator for lineups may be difficult in small departments or may disrupt the relationship an investigator tries to build with a witness. (1st web link below)
But a Deputy Chief in Massachusetts has published that he believes the blind procedure is easily implemented even in small departments. (5th web link below)
Politicians disagree – depending on who is effectively lobbying them. Compare Florida’s failed bill to standardize police lineups with the May 2011 Eyewitness Procedure Reform Bill in Texas. (6th web link below)
To no one’s surprise, courts disagree on what lineup procedures are required to ensure adequate reliability of eye witness identifications. Legal scholars are urging the Supreme Court to revisit its dated decision in Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98 (1977), on what due process requires of police procedures for out-of-court identifications in light of all the intervening research. (7th web link below)
What is the cop in the field supposed to do?
In light of all this debate and disagreement on the best practices for lineups -- hotly fueled by high profile DNA exonerations of people wrongly convicted and long-time jailed based on false eyewitness identification – what’s the officer using lineups as an investigative tool supposed to do?
Answer: Expect and be prepared for the defense to attack your lineup procedures in court:
- Before trial at a motion to suppress hearing on the ground that the eyewitness identification is the product of faulty procedures that undermine its reliability and therefore violates the defendant’s 14th Amendment due process rights.
- During trial by rigorously cross examining you with the “best” practices endorsed by research and other law enforcement agencies.
Are you prepared? You will be if you read next month’s article -- Defending Your Lineup in Court – Know Latest Best Practices.
- Police Lineups: Making Eyewitness Identification More Reliable, Beth Schuster
- Eyewitness Identification: What Chiefs Need to Know Now
- Bill to standardize police lineups fails
- Eyewitness Identification: Views from the Trenches
- Arresting the Right Person; The Role of the Police in Eyewitness Identification Reform (requires Acrobat Reader)
- Texas Senate Passes Eyewitness Procedure Reform Bill
- Manson v. Brathwaite Revisited: Towards a New Rule of Decision for Due Process Challenges to Eyewitness Identification Procedures
About The Author:
Described by Calibre Press as "the indisputable master of enter-train-ment," Val Van Brocklin is an internationally sought speaker, trainer and noted author. She combines a dynamic presentation style with over 10 years experience as a prosecutor where her trial work received national media attention on ABC's Primetime Live, the Discovery Channel's Justice Files, in USA Today, The National Enquirer and REDBOOK. In addition to her personal appearances, she appears on television, radio, and webcasts, in newspapers, journal articles and books. Visit her website: www.valvanbrocklin.com