Governor Brown Signs Eyewitness Identification Reform Bill

New Law Requires Best Practices for Conducting Photo & Live Lineups

(From Press Release) – California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 923 which mandates statewide use of best practices by law enforcement conducting photo and live lineups. Compliance with these widely accepted best practices improves the reliability of eyewitness identifications. Failure to use these best practices increases the risk of misidentification and a wrongful conviction.

The new law, authored by Senator Scott Weiner and Assemblymember Marc Levine, was sponsored by the California Innocence Coalition. Nationally, eyewitness misidentification is the leading contributor to convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence. In California, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, eyewitness misidentification played a role in 12 out of 13 DNA-related exonerations in the state.

“In adopting this legislation California joins the 21 other states who have recognized the decades of solid social science backing these reforms,” said Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) Executive Director and co-founder Linda Starr.

“Good eyewitness identification procedures guarantee that more guilty people will be convicted and more innocent people will be freed,” said Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project and a Professor of Law at California Western School of Law in San Diego. “It’s in everyone’s interest that identification procedures are as accurate as possible.”

The California Innocence Coalition partners have won the freedom of over 50 wrongfully convicted individuals who collectively spent nearly 520 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. In total, approximately a quarter of the coalition’s freed clients had eyewitness identification issues. This law will assist in preventing future injustices as a result of bad identifications.

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