A new policy model requested by state lawmakers is intended to avoid incorrect eyewitness identification of wrongly accused suspects.
The Law Enforcement Management Institute at Sam Houston State University issued the policy model Thursday.
More than two dozen Texas prison inmates from Dallas County have been exonerated since 2001.
Incorrect identification by witnesses was involved in most of those cases.
“These things were not done properly in the past,” said Chief Assistant Dallas County Public Defender Paul Blocker.
“When you have that many exonerations in one jurisdiction, there’s an issue with the way the line ups were being conducted,” he said.
The new policy is intended to remove bias that leads to incorrect indentifications.
Among other things, It calls for:
- Line ups administered by independent officers who do not know the correct suspect.
- Multiple suspects shown to a witness that match the same description.
- An end to “show up” identifications where a witness is shown just one suspect.
Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Russell Wilson heads a conviction integrity unit that is still finding more past mistakes.
“We have reason to think there are other folks who will be cleared of crimes as it relates to eyewitness identification.”
Russell and Blocker said the Dallas Police and Sheriff’s Department have already adopted changes like those recommended by the University, but other departments around the state and North Texas have not.
“There’s going to be some resistance from certain law enforcement agencies,” Blocker said.
Lawmakers ordered Sam Houston State to prepare the policy model as a “resource” for law enforcement agencies, but did not make it a requirement.
“I think ultimately this should be a statewide mandate that folks who are dealing with eyewitness evidence are able to handle it and situate it and make sure that it’s reliable,” Wilson said.