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Changes to stop wrong eyewitness identifications

Even though there has long been research showing how unreliable eyewitness identifications can be, law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation have resisted instituting changes in the process. However, the wave of exonerations over the past 30 years has been spurred by DNA testing and provided undeniable evidence that the wrong individual had been found guilty.

Law enforcement in half of the states in the nation are adopting new eyewitness identification policies. The new policies that are being implemented take into account the research demonstrating that conventional police cues and practices often prompt witnesses to pinpoint an innocent person. According to an official at the Innocence Project, the objective of eyewitness identification is to identify the right person, not just someone.

Some law enforcement organizations rejected the new policies, referring to them as unreasonable and expensive. However, several police departments instituted the updated eyewitness protocols without waiting for legislators to make it part of the law.

There is still one eyewitness identification issue that the new policies have failed to address. The fact that eyewitnesses have a higher likelihood of misidentifying individuals who are not the same race that they are has been noted as a failing in eyewitness identification for a long time. While juries are often instructed about the issue regarding cross-racial eyewitness identifications, a resolution to the problem has yet to be obtained.

A criminal defense attorney may consider the factors surrounding a client's arrest and work to ensure that the client's rights were not violated by law enforcement. The attorney may petition to have criminal charges dropped if law enforcement failed to adhere to proper procedures during the investigation or the arrest, or they might challenge the manner in which an identification lineup was executed.

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