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Bill Could Change Police Line-up Procedures

Posted April 19, 2007

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— A bill was filed in the state Legislature Thursday that could change the way police conduct photo line-ups. It’s a bill that could have helped in the Duke lacrosse case.

When Durham police asked accuser Crystal Mangum to identify her attackers, they only showed her pictures of 46 Duke Lacrosse players. The person who conducted the line-up was also involved in the investigation.

A bill filed in the General Assembly would make both of those acts illegal.

“It'll make sure innocent people are not put through the trauma of an unfair process,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, (D) Wake County. “It'll also lead us to the guilty more quickly.”

The move came after the state's innocence commission found certain state guidelines resulted in fewer wrongful convictions.

Those requirements have investigators use filler photos of people not associated with the crime. They also eliminate anyone working on the investigation from being involved.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he agrees with the state guidelines but worries that making it a law could box in officers.

“We don't want to hinder our law enforcement,” he said. “There are investigators who do good police work that isn't set out in a policy anywhere.”

If an agency didn't comply, this bill wouldn't make it a criminal offense. It mainly acts as a deterrent to officers. The bill would also ensure that judges and juries WOULD hear about it if an agency did NOT conduct their lineup according to the state law.

Ross said if it had been in place, perhaps Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and Dave Evans would have never been charged.

14 Comments

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  • mvnull Apr 24, 2007

    Notice the article elsewhere mentioning the 200th conviction overturned by The Innocence Project. It went down just as I had suggested -- the cops brought in someone whose only "crime" is that he looked like the description by an eye witness. Of course, the witness picked him out again -- and it cost him 25 years as a sexual offender.

    Eye witnesses are not that useful, expect as a way to jump start an investigation. If that's all you have, you are likely to convict an innocent person.

  • independent_thinker Apr 23, 2007

    Tarheel born: "When the legislature starts trying to tell LEO's how to do their job then they should come do the job. They are not in the business of conducting criminal investigations and should NOT try to be. Just another example of trying to be the "one" who can solve any problem with another useless statute."

    The Police enforce laws and regulations passed by...The Legislature!

  • mvnull Apr 21, 2007

    "I worked criminal investigative cases for 20 years using 6 similar photos including the suspect and NEVER had an ID challenged AND never sent an innocent person to prison." Thanks for your service to the state, but don't be so sure you have never sent an innocent person to prison. One thing that Project Innocence has shown is that eye witness identification is prone to error. In most cases, the eye witness identification is a confirmation of other evidence. Where it has been found to fail is when the suspect is identified only by an eye witness description. Because the police find someone who fits the description, the eye witness will likely choose that same person in a lineup.

    This bill isn't needed. There is nothing that a cop hates more than a suspect being released due their own mistake. All that is needed is a judge to actually throw out the case when the police screw up.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Apr 20, 2007

    During 20 years of handling criminal cases I have seen identification procedures which run the gamut of possibilities, some of which would blow your mind in their suggestiveness. I have no problem with the legislature enacting standards for such procedures, and providing penalties for violating the standards. Without penalties, law enforcement has no incentive to comply with the standards.

  • RRsaidso Apr 20, 2007

    Must be a democrat

  • St Ives Apr 20, 2007

    I though all if these proceedures were followed, oh thats right...they were followed by all but Nifong. Lets change th law to accomadate the crooked DA.

  • 68_polara Apr 20, 2007

    On second thought. Violation of this law should not be criminal though. A violation should however be considered justification to drop charges against suspects.

  • 68_polara Apr 20, 2007

    This sounds like a really good idea.

  • lizard Apr 20, 2007

    This is fluff. Candy for the voter.

  • needmocash Apr 19, 2007

    The reason they are rushing to pass a law is so they can point out Nifong did not break any law at the time. Therefore he'll avoid going to jail, but will still face ethic charges and will be disbarred. He won't go to jail thanks to the GA covering his butt with this bill

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