Faulty Eyewitness ID = Wrongful Conviction

DMN has a piece on Dallas County’s DNA exoneration team. The goal now is move to non DNA cases where, undoubtedly, dozens if not hundreds of innocent defendants have been convicted over the years.

DNA cases are the low hanging fruit of wrongful convictions. Why are so many people wrongfully convicted? One reason is that eyewitnesses can be pretty lousy when it comes to identifying a suspect in court. Here’s a quote from DMN

Ware, prosecutor Cynthia R. Garza, investigator James Hammond and paralegal Jena Parker – the four members of the conviction integrity unit – say they are using the lessons learned from the certainty of the wrongful convictions in the DNA cases to guide them.

They question the reliability of eyewitness identification, and while it’s not always incorrect, Ware says it is not the “gold standard” that prosecutors and juries once believed it to be.

An investigation by The Dallas Morning News in 2008 showed that all but one of the DNA exonerations involved faulty eyewitness identification.

If you are a juror, and the State’s best evidence is a witness ID; you can and should still have a reasonable doubt as to guilt. Every exoneration case save one had a person stand up and ID the wrongfully convicted defendant as the perpetrator.

Still, most Texas police departments refuse to update their witness ID practices to help prevent wrongful convictions.

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