Senator Keaveny Files Legislation to Change Eyewitness Identification Guidelines

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, has filed Senate Bill 842, which will require the implementation of eyewitness identification policies that have been scientifically proven to protect against misidentification, a top contributor to wrongful conviction proven by DNA evidence in Missouri and nationally.

“There are numerous reasons to file this legislation,” Sen. Keaveny said. “Missouri needs policies to safeguard against eyewitness misidentification. All nine of Missouri’s DNA exonerees were misidentified. The well-documented problems of eyewitness memory, the dangers of misidentification and the injustice that occurs when police do not implement scientifically supported eyewitness identification practices must be stopped.”

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in our country, contributing to 71 percent of the 336 wrongful convictions that have been proven through post-conviction DNA testing. Missouri’s nine exonerees were wrongfully convicted in part or entirely based on faulty identifications by victims and other witnesses. Those innocent men spent years of their lives in prison, while the real perpetrators were free, putting the people of Missouri in danger. New eyewitness identification policies will include, but not be limited to:

  • Lineup administrator who does not know or is positioned in such a way they cannot see which lineup members are being viewed by the eyewitness: The officer conducting a live or photo lineup must not know the suspect’s identity. This prevents any unintentional cues. As it is not always practical for a small department to administer a live or photo lineup this way, the “folder shuffle” method can be alternatively used for photo lineups. This simple method involves placing photos in different folders, shuffling them and handing them to the eyewitness or victim individually, so the officer is unaware of the photo being viewed.
  • Instructions: The officer must instruct the eyewitness or victim that the suspect may or may not be in the identification procedure and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether a selection is made, thus eliminating pressure to make a selection.
  • Confidence statement: A verbatim statement of confidence must be written down by the officer at the time the victim or eyewitness makes an identification. Because confidence can be artificially inflated – through confirming feedback – between the time an identification is made and the case going to trial, it is important to lock in the level of initial confidence voiced by the eyewitness.
  • Proper filler selection: No lineup member should stand out. Additionally, lineup members must match the victim’s or eyewitness’s description of the perpetrator.

For more information, visit Sen. Keaveny’s official Senate website at