Police should understand how memory works, and how they can affect it... should use more open-ended interview techniques... should use double-blind identification procedures... should choose fillers who match the description rather than the suspect... and should use sequential rather than simultaneous photo arrays.

Check it out! As of May 2020, Minnesota has adopted a groundbreaking eyewitness identification law.

(This page went up in 2015. At the time, some local jurisdictions were already using best practices. But in at least half the states, law enforcement didn’t even have policies to follow, much less scientifically valid policies designed to minimize false identifications. As of 2020, the statistic is still 71% of all who were exonerated by DNA were convicted based on eyewitness ID.)

The new law requires Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies to adopt a model policy and create written procedures that ensure:

 1. Double-blind or blind identifications, so the officer involved doesn’t know who the suspect is.

 2. Informing the witness that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup/photo array.

 3. Using fillers who match the witness’s description of the perpetrator, rather than resembling their suspect.

 4. Documenting the witness’s confidence in their identification, immediately as it is made.

Coincidentally, Minnesota had an exoneration case similar to the fictional story at the beginning of this chapter. In 1985, David Sutherlin was convicted of rape in St. Paul, based on eyewitness evidence. In 2002, DNA evidence proved he was innocent, and that another person had committed the rape. Unfortunately, that other person could no longer be prosecuted. [Link]

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