Friday, August 29, 2014

Mass. court to hear eyewitness ID cases

Zachary Sevigny was slashed with a box cutter by a stranger outside a convenience store in 2011.

Neither Sevigny nor his friend identified Jeremy Gomes as the attacker when shown his picture in a police photo array. But a week later, they saw Gomes inside a Pittsfield gas station and told police he was the culprit.
Gomes was found guilty of the attack, but his lawyer is challenging his conviction based on what he says were unreliable eyewitness identifications.

That challenge is one of four cases seeking changes in the way eyewitness identification testimony is presented to juries. The cases are set to be heard by the highest court in Massachusetts next month. Defense attorneys are pushing the court to adopt stronger instructions to advise jurors that eyewitness identifications are not always reliable.

Specifically, they want judges to tell juries that human memory is easily influenced and not like a video recording. They also want juries to be warned that witnesses who appear highly confident about their identification are not therefore necessarily reliable. And they want juries told that the failure to identify a suspect in an identification procedure — such as a police lineup or photo array — may reduce the reliability of a later identification of the same suspect by the witness.


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