When people are chosen out of an eyewitness lineup, they are marked as a suspect and are subjected to questioning regarding the crime. Yet, what if the suspect that was chosen had no participation in the crime at all? In some cases, these innocent suspects may be charged and convicted of a crime they did not commit, simply with the false witness identification. Surprisingly, this happens more often than you may think. According to the Innocence Project, over 350 people have been exonerated from prison sentences after further DNA testing proved they did not commit the crime they were charged for. Eyewitness misidentification was involved in 70% of those cases. What causes people to choose the wrong person out of an eyewitness lineup?

The way the lineup is organized is one factor that can lead to misidentification. Lineups should be set up in such a way that more than one person matches the identity of the perpetrator. For example, if the perpetrator was said to have a tattoo and a mustache, there should be more than one person in the lineup that matches that description. In addition, the administrator leading the witness through the lineup process should have no prior knowledge of the crime. He or she should let the witness know up front that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup, and avoid saying anything that would lead the witness to choose someone out the lineup. The lineup process should be taped and available to the attorneys and judges presiding over the case.

Eyewitness misidentification can be caused by a witness’s failure to remember specific details about the incident as well.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.