Changes are here for Justice Department eyewitness identification procedures.
Obtaining accurate and reliable information from eyewitnesses plays a key role in our criminal justice system. Eyewitness identifications are especially important as they are oftentimes central pieces of evidence in a criminal investigation.
A standard eyewitness identification method is the “photo array” – when several photos of similar-looking individuals are displayed at once. This method is designed to determine whether or not an eyewitness can identify a suspect. It is possible for the personnel administering the photo array, however, to influence the witness in this process. The confidence that a witness has in identifying a suspect during a photo array has been shown to be more reliable than it is during a trial. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to execute photo arrays as fairly as possible.
The new procedures ensure that the photo array administrator is “blind.” That means that he or she must either not know what the suspect looks like or be able to tell what order the photos are in. Additionally, the administrator must record the identification process on video, audio, or be transcribed as close to verbatim as possible.