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State Senator

Eric D. Coleman

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Representing Hartford, Bloomfield & Windsor

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Contact: Lawrence Cook

March 16, 2012

Coleman: Sequential Lineups Would Improve Eyewitness IDs

Overturned conviction this week shows need for reform

Today State Senator Eric D. Coleman (D-Bloomfield), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, presided over a public hearing on legislation to reform the state’s eyewitness identification procedures, and issued the following statement in support of the bill. A symposium was also held on the subject this morning.

“The testimony of an eyewitness is amongst the most compelling evidence that can be introduced in a criminal trial. Yet human memories are never perfect. Just this week, a man was released from Connecticut prison after serving five years for a rape he did not commit. This legislation would put in place statewide standards to ensure that eyewitness identifications are as accurate as possible, and avoid the implication of innocents,” said Senator Coleman.

In eyewitness identification procedures conducted by law enforcement, a witness to an alleged crime is shown either a series of photographs (a “photo lineup”) or group of people (a “live lineup”) and asked to identify the perpetrator.

A recent study by Dr. Gary Wells of Iowa University suggests that when photographs or persons are presented to an eyewitness sequentially, rather than simultaneously, their identifications prove more reliable.

House Bill 5501 would require that for purposes of a lineup, all municipal and state law enforcement agencies must:

Present photographs or persons one at a time, never simultaneously Ensure the officer conducting a lineup does not know which individual is suspected If a photo lineup in this manner is impossible, the photos must be shown in a random order by computer or a “folder shuffle” method

Provide instruction to the witness which explains the lineup procedure, states that changes in head or facial hair may alter an individual’s appearance, and stresses that not identifying innocents is as important as identifying a perpetrator

Last year, Public Act No. 11-52 created the 19 member Eyewitness Identification Task Force, which presented recommendations that form the basis of this year’s legislation. House Bill 5501 would maintain the Task Force to monitor implementation of the bill and continue studying eyewitness identification procedures.


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