Sequential Presentation of Lineups
The Innocence Project endorses as a reform the sequential – as opposed to simultaneous – presentation of lineup members to the witness. This endorsement is based on both scientific research and “real world” experience of jurisdictions that use sequential presentation.
A large body of peer-reviewed research conducted over the last 20 years demonstrates that sequential presentation, when coupled with a “blind” administrator, greatly minimizes the likelihood of incorrect identifications. An increasing number of jurisdictions across the country are using this practice and find it highly effective in improving the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness identifications.
But some jurisdictions remain resistant because the research shows that sequential presentations lead to fewer overall identifications. (In short, research shows that sequential/blind presentations decrease both correct and incorrect identifications. However, the research clearly shows that incorrect identifications are reduced much more substantially than correct identifications.) Sequential presentation is one among several elements of reform in eyewitness identification procedures, but disputes about the ultimate value of sequential have often prevented clear consideration of the other important and accepted reforms; these disputes have led to political defeat of reforms that are proven to increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.
To ensure that critical eyewitness identification reforms that can prevent wrongful convictions are not blocked because of concerns about sequential presentation, the Innocence Project has refrained from including sequential in its current eyewitness identification reform package. The Innocence Project continues to provide all interested parties with substantial information on the scientific research about sequential presentation and the experiences of jurisdictions that are effectively using the practice, including studies, protocol, law enforcement references, and other information.
To help address concerns about the benefits of sequential lineup presentations, the Innocence Project, in collaboration with other interested parties and specific jurisdictions, is supporting field studies of sequential lineup procedures which employ the use of laptop computers and use solid scientific methodology. We hope this research will further clarify the benefits of employing sequential lineups in actual practice and resolve any lingering questions.