Innocence Project of Minnesota proposes legislation to revise law on eyewitness identifications

The Innocence Project of Minnesota is proposing legislation to establish practices statewide that would revise Minnesota law on eyewitness identifications.

According to the Innocence Project, 71 percent of the United States first 360 DNA-based exonerations involved mistaken eyewitness identifications. Of those wrongful convictions, 42 percent involved cross-racial mistaken identifications.

Organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, have recommended changes in order to improve the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness identifications.

The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to have written policies that includes the following:

  • The person running a live or photo lineup does not know the suspect's identity or uses a photo lineup in which they can't see which photo the eyewitness is looking at
  • Before the lineup, the witness will be told that the suspect may or may not be among the photos or in the lineup
  • The non-suspect "fillers" that are used in the lineup should be similar to the eyewitness' description
  • Once an identification is made, the eyewitness gives a statement sharing their level of confidence in their decision

Officials with the Innocence Project say the changes will hopefully address problems in the previous procedure. In the past, the person running the lineup may have given unintentional clues to the eyewitness on which person they should choose. The witness may also have felt pressured to choose a person in the lineup even if they may doubt the suspect is in the lineup.

These practices have already been adopted by Hennepin and Ramsey counties as well as 26 other states.