News

Innocence Organizations Praise Florida Lawmakers for Passage of Key Eyewitness Identification Reform Legislation to Prevent Wrongful Convictions

Contact:  Seth Miller, [email protected]
Michelle Feldman, [email protected]

(April 28, 2017 – Tallahassee, FL) – Today, the Florida Legislature passed critical eyewitness identification reform legislation, taking a significant step forward in preventing wrongful convictions in the state. Senate Bill 312 and House Bill 643, sponsored by Senator Dennis Baxley (Sumter, Lake and Marion) and Representative Gayle B. Harrell (Martin and St. Lucie) respectively, will now go to the governor for a signature. The bill, which is supported by the Innocence Project of Florida, Innocence Project, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs’ Association and the public and private criminal defense communities, would ensure that Florida law enforcement agencies use evidence-based practices that have been proven to reduce the risk of eyewitness misidentification.

This legislation would require that lineups are conducted using a double-blind or blinded procedure, and witnesses are instructed that the perpetrator may or may not be present, as recommended by the National Research Council, U.S. Department of Justice, International Association of Chiefs of Police and many others.  Double-blind administration means that the officer conducting the lineup does not know the suspect’s identity. Blinded administration is used when double-blind administration is not feasible, and the administrator uses procedure that prevents him or her from seeing which lineup member is being viewed by the witness at a given time, removing any chance of suggestiveness. If these best practices are not followed, a court can consider noncompliance when deciding whether the identification can be admitted into evidence and must instruct the jury that it consider whether law enforcement followed the eyewitness procedures when determining the reliability of a witness’s identification.

“One of the most compelling things a jury can hear is an eyewitness identifying a defendant in court, yet all too often the eyewitness gets it wrong. In Florida, eyewitness misidentification has played a role in 64% of wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence. Today, we applaud our lawmakers who took the opportunity prevent future wrongful convictions by passing this critical legislation,” said Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida.

Nationally, eyewitness misidentification is the leading contributing cause of wrongful convictions later overturned through new DNA evidence. The actual culprits in those DNA-based exonerations involving misidentification went on to be convicted of 100 additional violent crimes—including 64 rapes and 17 murders.

Florida is now one of 21 states that have mandated statewide use of blind or blinded eyewitness identification procedures through statute, court action or executive action. In addition to saving lives, it will result in potential cost savings, since there are no costs for implementing these reforms, and these best practices will likely decrease the need for court hearings to decide whether eyewitness identification is admissible at trial. It will also save Florida taxpayers money in state compensation and civil payouts to exonerees, which up to now has cost them $6.6 million.

“Thank you to Florida law enforcement, who came together and supported scientifically based identification procedures in the interest of justice and public safety. Eyewitness identification is a powerful and valuable investigative method, and this improvement to the law gives police the tools they need to more accurately identify a suspect,” added Michelle Feldman, Legislative Strategist for the Innocence Project which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law in New York, NY.

##

2 Comments

  1. I applaud this. Now, if only Florida had better personnel at CPT and DCF because even if a person is innocent and there is malicious intent on the part of the ex to destroy a parental relationship, nothing is ever done with statute 39.205 false allegations. This is a window dressing statute never really used. My ex called 11 times on me, even during the 50 months I have not been able to see my daughter. 52 months and exonerated since Jan. 2013 but yet I am waiting on justice and I can’t get a trial soon enough. Something needs to be done with this too because we are losing the most important thing in our lives because of vicious lies and there is no worse crime than crimes versus children so why are we treating these false allegations of abuse of children very lightly and not doing anything about it? How many more parents will lose their children this year because of overzealous law enforcement officers and shady therapists who won’t even look at evidence in front of them? I lost my child so maybe we can stop this in Florida because when you lose your child there is nothing in your life left.
    Innocent or not false allegations of abuse MUST not go unpunished.

  2. Dr. Robert Thomson

    The number of persons who are following the unlawful incarceration of Leo Schoefield (Polk
    C.I.) is growing. I was his mentor in his successful completion of his Bachelor’s degree. He has been incarcerated for over 30 years and no one of stature has effectively unlocked his cell.
    What on earth does it take to end this ordeal? Further study will reveal that he is one of the leaders of the faith-based programs.

    Dr. Robert Thomson

Leave a Reply

Featured news