Saturday, February 7, 2015

Tamping Down on Memory Tampering

Andrew Whitman at the American Criminal Law Review has this story about a new Illinois law that tries to solve the problem of police giving subtle or not-so-subtle hints to eyewitnesses trying to pick suspects out of lineups or photo arrays.
The Illinois law counters the problems of cognitive and confirmation bias. The law first requires that photo arrays (in which witnesses are shown pictures of the suspect and “fillers”) and in-person lineups be conducted by officers who do not know which choice is the suspect. Nobody who knows the identity of the suspect is allowed in the room. Next, the law sets standards to ensure that the police’s suspect “does not unduly stand out from the fillers.” For example, it would be against the spirit of the law if all of the fillers wore prison garb, and the suspect wore a shirt and tie.
 Most uniquely, the new law requires that lineups and photo array identification be videotaped by an unbiased police officer. Thus, the State of Illinois hopes to remove the guesswork of identifying bias and see for itself what’s going on.
Read the whole thing: Videotaping Justice: How Illinois Has Dealt With the Problem of Police Suggestion and How it Might be Used at Trial

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