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Misidentification often leads to wrongful convictions

New York residents would never want someone to be convicted of a crime he or she didn't commit. Unfortunately, some experts say it happens much more than it should.

Witness misidentification is one of the most common causes of wrongful conviction. According to studies, it is fairly easy for some witnesses to choose the wrong individual in a lineup. For example, while looking at photo lineups, witnesses will often choose the person who most closely resembles the person they saw. While viewing a police lineup, some witnesses will choose the person they saw in the photo lineup. When sitting in a courtroom, witnesses will see the defendant on a daily basis and might become convinced that person is the one they originally saw.

This apparently happened during the investigation of a rape in San Diego. The victim identified a suspect in a police lineup, saying she was 70 percent sure he was the man who raped her. During his trial, the victim said she was 100 percent certain he was her rapist. He was convicted and sent to prison. However, on June 25, the California Innocence Project announced that DNA testing had exonerated him. Legal experts say that the case highlights the need for eyewitness identification reforms in San Diego and elsewhere. Some cities have found that switching to a double-blind sequential lineup system improves the accuracy of suspect identification. Under a double-blind system, the suspect's identity is hidden from both the witness and the officiating detective during lineups.

An individual charged with serious crimes may be able to help their situation by working with a criminal defense attorney. An attorney could help a defendant understand his or her legal options and work to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.

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