Kat’s Notes from National Innocence Project Policy Conference

Kat Brady, CAP Coordinator, attended the National Innocence Project Policy Conference in New Orleans, LA on June 6th-8th, 2012.

Notes from National Innocence Project Policy Conference 6.6-8.12

Excerpts from Kat’s Notes:

“What an amazing conference! It was really something to be surrounded by kindred spirits who are motivated by justice and fairness. I am grateful that the National Innocence Project invited Board Members to participate in this conference and I am especially grateful that the Hawai`i Innocence Project included me. I learned plenty and made some great connections with attorneys, professors, exonerees, consultants, Innocence Project staff from around the US and Canada, police chiefs, a couple of police foundations, and even a prosecutor, who I spent time with discussing our situation in Hawai`i. People were so kind and offered their help to reform the eyewitness id procedure in Hawai`i nei.”

Thursday, July 7th, 2012
1st Presentation: “Psychology of Misidentification” by Jennifer Dysart, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jennifer worked on the first field study of eyewitness id.

Wow it was awesome!

Dr. Dysart opened with statistics: of 292 exonerations, 250 were false identifications – 76% were false ids and 36% of those had 1 or more witnesses who misidentified the actual wrongdoer.

“Eyewitness evidence cannot be collected like DNA,” she emphasized.She then showed a model called “The Ames Room”. It was a picture of 2 doorways – one with a woman standing in it -­‐ and the other with a man who was much larger than the doorway. She asked us to guess the height of the woman and then the height of the man. She then explained that there are many questions that must be asked, such as is the subject actually standing in the doorway or close up with the doorway in the background. Without this kind of information (depth of field), it is easy to misjudge the size of the person. This can lead to a misidentification.

She spoke about the importance of giving instructions -­‐ such as the person who committed the crime may not be included in the lineup or photo array.

Then the discussion went to 911 dispatchers and the need for training of personnel to ask the correct questions. She related a personal story of a 911 call she made when she observed (from the window of her home) someone breaking into her car. She called 911 and the questions asked by the dispatcher only elicited brief and not-­‐too-­‐helpful information from her (male, height, blue shirt, jeans). She said that dispatchers should be trained to ask more probing questions – skin tone, hair length, and facial hair or other distinguishing marks, etc.

During the discussion of photo ids, she said it was critical to know the order in which the photos are shown and the number of times the photo is used. Sequential avoids the witness picking the ‘best’ option; witnesses should be using reasoning.

Lineup is a memory test, not a reasoning test.

She showed a short video of two teams of people – one wearing white shirts; the other wearing black shirts -­‐ passing a basketball. She asked us to count the number of times the white team passed the ball without bouncing it. As we were all concentrating on counting the number of passes, many of us missed the gorilla that walked right in the center of the two teams, stopped, and then pounded his chest! What a great illustration as to how the obvious is missed when we are focused on something else!

The American Judicature Study
The American Judicature Society’s study on the blind-­‐sequential method was the first rigorous, robust scientific study in the field of the blind-­‐sequential procedure. It was conducted in four (4) jurisdictions across the nation. It is based on 30+ years of research. It demonstrated the superiority of the blind-­‐ sequential procedure over the blind-­‐simultaneous procedure. This is the first comprehensive field study conducted in four states. It showed that only in 6% of the cases the witness did not pick the ‘filler’ (a person who is not a suspect). There was NO LOSS in correct identifications using the blind-­‐sequential procedure and a 50% REDUCTION IN INCORRECT IDENTIFICATIONS.”

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