Contrary to what many believe, not all people sentenced to spend time behind bars are guilty of committing a crime. In fact, there are a number of innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit. According to the Innocence Project, there are many factors that can lead to a wrongful conviction. Eyewitness misidentification, however, is the most common error made in criminal trials. When people choose the wrong person out of a lineup, that person may be found guilty of committing a crime.
There are several reasons why eyewitness lineups can lead witnesses to choose the wrong suspect. First, the lineup administrator may inadvertently lead the witness by making comments or giving physical clues as to who the suspect is. Ideally, the administrator should have no knowledge of the details of the crime to prevent this from happening. Furthermore, the lineup must be organized so that there is more than one person in the lineup that meets the suspect’s description. For example, if the perpetrator has a beard and was wearing a hat, there should be more than one person in the lineup with a beard and wearing a hat. The witness should also be instructed that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup. All lineups should be taped so the judge can review the procedure to ensure all proper methods were used.
After the witness chooses a suspect from the lineup, they should be immediately prompted to give a statement indicating how confident they are in their choice. These procedures should be standardized and used in all eyewitness lineups to prevent an innocent person from being convicted