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Police lineup reform in Texas

The methods used by police departments in Texas during eyewitness lineups were changed when the state's Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2015. Texas is one of 25 states to change the way lineups are conducted in the wake of research revealing that eyewitness misidentifications were often primary pieces of evidence when criminal suspects are wrongfully convicted. In one such study, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentifications were a key factor in 71 percent of 350 wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.

Under the revised Code of Criminal Procedure, police departments in Texas must conduct what are known as double-blind eyewitness lineups. This means that neither the witness nor the independent administrator assisting them knows who the suspect is or whether or not there even is a suspect. The independent administrator must also not be an officer assigned to the ongoing investigation.

Texas law also requires police to make video recordings of photo arrays or eyewitness lineups whenever possible. Video recordings allow judges, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys to better understand how confident or reluctant witnesses were when they identified suspects. This rule was introduced because hesitant witnesses may seem assured and confident after being prepared by a skilled prosecutor, and research has revealed that juries find this kind of evidence extremely persuasive.

Video recordings of eyewitness identifications may be of great interest to experienced defense attorneys, and this could be especially true when defendants and witnesses are different races or prosecutors have little in the way of physical or forensic evidence to back them up. Numerous studies have drawn attention to the unreliability of cross-racial identification, and attorneys may seek to have criminal charges reduced or dismissed when prosecutors rely heavily on this type of evidence.

Source: The Texas Legislature, Code of Criminal Procedure- Chapter 38. Evidence in Criminal Actions

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