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Reliability of Eyewitness identification - Perry v. New Hampshire (U.S. Supreme Court)

Many criminal cases throughout Indiana and Fort Wayne, are decided based upon eyewitness identification. Either the viction or someone else "saw" the Defendant commit the crime. But, eyewitness identifications in criminal cases are untrustworthy and can lead to wrongful convictions. U.S. Supreme Court cases dating back to the 1960's have stressed this and now the United States Supreme Court has the task of determining what due process safeguards in eyewitness identification cases.

In Perry v. New Hampshire, Barion Perry was convicted of Theft primarily based upon eyewitness identification. The eyewitness was in her apartment looking out a window. She saw a man peer into cars, break into one of the vehicles and steal a stereo system. When police arrived they saw Barion Perry in the area carying a set of speakers. Another officer asked the eyewitness to describe the man who broke into the car. The witness said it was the man in the parking lot (Perry) who was talking with a police officer.

Perry argues that due process requires the judge to review the eyewitness identification because he (Perry) was standing next to a police officer when the identification was made, which suggest the police considered him a suspect. Perry suggests that this special review should be mandated when an identification is made under any type of suggestive circumstance. Clearly, due process concerns arise when it appears that police officers are trying to stack the deck against a person and interfere in the identification process.

Even the American Psychological Association (APA) has weighed on Perry's behalf. The APA says "controlled experiments as well as studies of actual identifications have consistently found that the rate of incorrect identifications is approximately 33 percent." So, one-third eyewitness identifications are wrong. Certainly, some safeguards are necessary to ensure that a persons due process rights are protected.

Please contact, Gregory A. Miller, a Fort Wayne Criminal Defense Lawyer, if you have questions regarding Theft Burglary, or other cases involving eyewitness identification, at (260)426-6666.