Problem of false identifications

In Illinois, some people have been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Some of these people were convicted after being falsely identified by witnesses. The problem of false identifications in criminal cases is widespread, affecting innocent people across the U.S.

According to the California Innocence Project, mistakes are often made with how the photo lineups are conducted by the police. The errors occur in both the photographic lineups and in-person lineups. Some police departments use photographic lineups of six people. Studies have shown that witnesses who are presented with six-person photo lineups tend to choose the person that they think looks the most similar to the person that they saw even if they are not certain that their choice is correct.

When witnesses are then presented with lineups of live people, they tend to choose the people who they earlier identified instead of the people who actually committed the crimes. When the witnesses subsequently see the defendants in court after they have been charged, seeing them reaffirms their choice. The Innocence Project recommends that law enforcement agencies use double-blind sequential lineups as a solution to the problem. These lineups are conducted by detectives who do not know which person is the suspect.

Facing criminal charges can be frightening because of the potential loss of freedom and the damage to a person's reputation. It can be even more overwhelming for people to be charged with crimes that they did not commit. It may be beneficial for people who are facing charges to retain experienced criminal defense lawyers. Getting legal help early in the case may help people avoid accidentally incriminating themselves. The attorneys may work to build the strongest defense cases possible.

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