The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Tuesday aimed at avoiding wrongful criminal convictions by setting new standards for how police departments have eyewitnesses identify criminal suspects in lineups.
The measure, House Bill 5501, now goes to the Senate.
The bill grew out of recommendations from a task force chaired by former Connecticut Supreme Court Justice David Borden. That panel said whenever a suspect is among people included in a photo or live lineup, the participants must be presented sequentially, so that the eyewitness views only one photograph or person at a time.
“Eyewitness identification is a critical law enforcement tool, but we have also learned that mistakes made during suspect lineups play a significant role in wrongful convictions,” said state Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the legislative judiciary committee. “These standards are aimed at helping to reduce potential mistakes and increase accurate criminal identifications.”
The bill also expands the instructions police must give to eyewitnesses before they view a lineup. The witnesses would be told in advance:
–That they will be asked to view an array of photographs or a group of people, one at a time;
–That it\’s as important to exclude innocent persons as to identify the person who committed the crime;
–That the person in a lineup may not look exactly as he or she did on the date of the offense, because features such as hair on the head or face can change;
–That the perpetrator of the crime \”may or may not\” be in the lineup, instead of the current wording of only \”may\”;
–And that the police will continue to investigate the crime regardless of whether the witness makes an identification.
Current police procedures already require that, whenever possible, the officer conducting a lineup does not know which individual is the suspect, that eyewitnesses are told they shouldn\’t feel compelled to make an ID, and they should take as much time as they need to make a decision.