A Study of the Controversial Topic of Witness Misidentification

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Starting off with a clean slate on life, excited to kick off the future then abruptly misguided into prison all based from an inaccurate judgement. Witness Misidentification can happen at any time, place and person no matter the charge. This type of crime is one of the contributing actions of wrongful convictions, and only 70% of convictions are overturned from DNA testing. Meaning only 30% of those wrongfully chosen are still consumed in madness that jail is providing. Hundreds of witnesses (per case) choose badly in lineups situations and photo identification then those who are chosen are charged guilty. Why were these innocent people chosen? There are many different ways to avoid this action of crime, the prevention people should start to use. Witness misidentification is a leading cause for false convictions Nationwide that must be controlled by universal standards for law enforcement regarding the use of photographic lineups, limited use of witness identification in testimonial court room setting and creating a pretrial gate keeper procedure for admissions of witness identification testimony.

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Since witness misidentification is a serious topic, innocent people are being convicted for crime they did not even commit. From pure people being compared by like features or even just being blamed by a person who doesn’t appreciate them. “Wrongful convictions are usually the result of a combination of errors… tunnel vision, incomplete disclosure, eyewitness misidentification, false confessions/accusations or perjury, guilty pleas, and false testimony.” These standards of wrongful convictions should be stopped immediately. Incomplete disclosure should be evaluated multiple times, even before the convictions. From false accusations to guilty pleas, raw evidence can help stop all these vital mishaps from happening. Then false testimony is just the proof that all of the actions didn’t have a second thought; of these people could be telling the truth. Many of these cases could have been stopped if people would have stepped out, thought outside of the box but instead of just assuming the fugitive did those horrible things, remembering they are human too, also starting out from the clean slate.

Universal standards show that law enforcement should be taking more action. Lineups should not be the only criminal investigation used to identify a criminal. This gives a feeling of not having any rights. Imagine, having to choose a perpetrator, only remembering the eye color shape, skin color, etc. and yet still not remembering what they exactly look like. There are millions of people out there that could have the same traits as the person who had actually done this. Law enforcement could take more steps to help the victim declare the perpetrator, not pressure the victim forcing to pick a person in that line up. The enforcer should also check to make sure the victim is making the right choice, instead of making an estimated assumption. Using evidence of a person’s background (who is chosen by the description of a witness or victim) not just put in the lineup by their appearance of what was drawn. Asking family members and friends (of the person in the photo lineup) what the ‘potential perpetrator’ was doing the same time and date the crime was committed. Say that they were playing cards and he was sitting on the sidelines studying,like Timothy Cole, he was with his friends while ‘his’ sentencing initiated.

Timothy Brian Cole was charged with rape, robbery and stealing from a woman, all while he was in his home studying while his friends where playing cards. When the woman was picking the potential perpetrator, she was for sure saying “That’s him” . She knew it was Cole who had committed the crime against her and was absolutely sure with no doubts. Cole had passed away serving his sentence of 25 years in jail. When Cole had passed away, law enforcers had found the real perpetrator who had written a confession letter to a judge disclosing he committed the crime. The woman who claimed Cole, was truly sorry and apologized to his family and said pleading “he did not deserve this” . All of this could have been prevented just by asking for more universal standards that can prevent dealing with misidentification of a person’s fate.

The prevention of the misidentification of a culprit is to never assume the identity of a person making this an issue and not finding the information fast so the information comes out wrong. If the wrong facts and information are given to law enforcement it will change the outcome of who had actually done the crime. Giving an incompletion of the case, having to go back on the case when they would find a lead, and fixing everything that could have been prevented in the first place. The key is to actually use the facts, not speeding past them.

In the case Steven Phillips, multiple witnesses had believed Phillips was the one who had committed all of their crimes, even though some of his body features and his record proves he had not done it. For the actual perpetrator, Sidney Goodyear, who was in the lineup with Phillips had an arrest warrant issued for the Dallas crime spree, but dropped for unknown reasons. Phillips was sentenced to 30 years for two convictions and additional sentences of ten years for five other incidents. Furthermore, watching out for single witness identifications (where that witness did not have good recollect of identifying). Even having a slight idea of procedures relating to the identification process mostly used by law enforcement and how critical the extent of these procedures are. Even using the right photographs make a huge difference in picking a witness, to all use mug shot of every individual questioned. Finally, the excessive use of using evidence in a crime to show who had done the felony. Using this last bit of advice willstop witness misidentification from the start before it began. Even if the law enforcement would look over it themselves to analyze to confirm the right crook.

When someone is with the suspect, they should count as a witness for that suspect comparable to James Curtis Giles. James was with his wife when this crime was brewing in Dallas that he gets accused of rape, with three other criminals. With catching the lead attackers (who had pled guilty) he only reviled two people by their first names of; Michael and James, which this James was not Giles. They have finally figured it out the actual perpetrator instead of Giles was already dead, this person’s name had a little twist. The real perpetrators name was James Earl Giles. If the wife of Curtis Giles testified against him he would have not been put into this predicament, since they were at a restaurant together. This would have prevented Curtis Giles being in jail for 10 years out of the 30 he has been sentenced. Having more identification in a court case for someone to testify not guilty whoever is not supposed to be guilty.

The limited use of witness misidentification in court room settings should be changed. Using more evidence in a case should not be denied when defending a potential perpetrator. This is true about all cases, this be changed:

“One problem is that there is no systematic way to identify all cases. While appellate court decisions are published and amenable to computer searches, dismissed charges and trial court decisions are published and amenable to computer searches, dismissed charges and trial court acquittals are no where systematically catalogued, or at least not in data bases accessible to the public. Another problem is that cases often end without definitive resolutions. Were the eyewitnesses wrong—or lying or was the case dropped or lost merely because the evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?”

Even ending with a question gives this statement thought, was the evidence insufficient, or evidence not used to prove otherwise guilty. If other cases where proved on this point, would there be people proven for non-guilty or guilty. Finding someone to do that job, a filter of criminal defenses to help the suspect become the criminal or victim; the victim of misidentification itself.

An admissions ticket or fee is the way into an establishment to enjoy or experience what the establishment hasto offer. A pretrial procedure that would filter cases that should have all the evidence needed when figuring out who had done this potential crime. Witness misidentification should be taken more seriously with more steps to identify an actual perpetrator. Instead of just coming from one victim, there should be extra eyewitness’s views, more actual DNA testing. Making sure that the actual perpetrator has spot on views of 100%, they had done this. Along the lines of David Shawn Pope.

David Shawn Pope was charged for rape, and sentenced to 45 years of imprisonment. Luckily Pope only served 15 years, law enforcement had finally realized they did not have enough information to even have him locked up. Enforcers only went upon a drawing of the perpetrator’s appearance the woman (who was abused) gave law enforcers. From that drawling,another officer believed Pope looked similar. Officers also found the clothes and the kitchen knife that was similar to the crime in Pope’s car, but Pope was living off campus in his car at the time and had all the supplies in his car, from cooking supplies with everyday living items. Having more evidence would have helped Pope not deal with jail time. With more DNA testing should have been conflicted right after the crime happened on the woman, instead of her just giving a drawing of the perpetrators face.

Having a clean slate is hard in life, but shouldn’t be a mistake. The difference in catching the right bad guy is a huge difference in the world and most people don’t realize it’s becoming more common than it was back in the day. People coming out of jail to start fresh, that is a really hard thing to do when you need that clean slate, this slate is tainted and harder to get clean even as a free man (or woman). Just imagine, doing a crime is committed and everyone is pointing at the wrong person. That person starting over, and then finally getting out 15-20 years later and having to find a job, take care of the family or meeting up with friends that would feel differently about that person, losing everything and starting over. Witness misidentification is a serious crime, of false convictions everywhere, that must have more universal standards, more of a limited use of a in a court room and having an admissions gateway keeper to make sure that person is getting every right procedure to not be convicted wrongly. Nobody wants to believe they would be set back and be taken by fate, or even to be called a felon or a criminal. Going by these guide lines and fixing the system, everyone would be identified and not missed.

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