Feb 24, 2009

New Report on Wrongful Convictions

The New York State Bar Association has done an extensive review of wrongful convictions and published them here. The NYSBA reviewed 53 cases of wrongful conviction and found that the overwhelming majority (68%) of them rested on erroneous identification procedures. Some of the proposed solutions for this problem include:

1) changing the way in which identification procedures (including lineups and photo arrays) are conducted to enhance the reliability of eyewitness identifications;

2) allowing expert testimony on eyewitness identifications at trial and providing jury instructions on eyewitness identifications;

3) admitting evidence of photographic identifications at trial;

4) instituting sanctions for failure to comply with mandated procedures;

5) conducting specialized training of police, prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys; and

6) securing funding to implement these recommendations.

Beyond the technical legal aspects of this report (of which false identifications are only one component), it is an interesting example of our justice system taking an honest look at itself. Wrongful conviction is such a widespread issue that the New York Times, for example, has a "Times Topic" just devoted to "False Arrests, Convictions, and Imprisonments." The New York State Bar Association should be commended for its thoughtful and determined examination of this important issue.