If you’ve ever watched action films or primetime televisions shows, you’ve seen police lineups depicted on the screen. Usually, a group of similar-looking suspects will line up with height measurements painted or affixed on the white wall behind them. Meanwhile, a victim or witness is behind a two-way-mirror, where he or she can view the lineup but for their safety and protection, the suspects cannot see him or her.
“That man there is the one. He’s the one that shot me,” said a victim in Colman v. Alabama. According to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, “That man there is in trouble. Big trouble. Even if he didn’t fire the shot, he could easily be found guilty at trial.”
“One reason that a pretrial identification carries so much weight is that a witness who has picked out a person at a lineup is ‘not likely to go back on his word later on,’” said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Not only that, but if a witness looks credible to the jury, his or her identification of the defendant can be very convincing because crime victims and witnesses rarely have reason to lie about perpetrators’ IDs.
The Alameda District Attorney’s Office goes on to say that the combination of a witness’s pretrial identification of a defendant and his or her positive ID in the courtroom can be so convincing that it’s devastating from the defendant’s perspective. “This is, of course, a good thing – if the defendant was the perpetrator. But what if he wasn’t?” said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Mistakes in Eyewitness Identifications Lead to Wrongful Convictions
Unfortunately, crime victims and witnesses can make mistakes; it’s not unheard of for a victim or witness to say, “That’s him,” when it’s NOT the perpetrator. According to the Innocence Project, “Mistake eyewitness identifications contributed to approximately 71% of the more than 350 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different types of lineups used by local police in Alameda County.
Four types of lineups in Alameda County:
- Live lineups are where the suspect and five or more people (aka fillers) line up against a wall before the witness, who cannot be seen by the suspect.
- Photo lineups are where the witness or victim is shown photographs of the suspect along with “fillers.” These pictures usually consist of DMV and booking photos.
- Recorded lineups are where detectives conduct a live lineup, but without the witness or victim in attendance. They record the lineup and show the witness later on.
- Photo lineups are where there is no suspect, so the police show the witness a collection of photos of known gang members, or pictures from school year books or sex offender registries.
If you were subject to a photo or live lineup in Oakland, or if you think you may be in the near future, contact the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed immediately for a free consultation!