Eyewitness Identification Procedures

Eyewitnesses frequently play a vital role in criminal cases. However, eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions.

Research psychologists have been working in the field of eyewitness identification for over 30 years. In working with police departments, legal teams and through our own empirical studies, we’ve cultivated a deep knowledge about the specific factors that influence the accuracy of eyewitness identification.
Contact Research Design Associates to learn more about Eyewitness Identification Procedures.
Research Design Associates has worked with police departments to develop identification procedures that can reduce the likelihood of false identifications. We have consulted or testified as expert witnesses in over 100 cases involving eyewitness identification. We are experienced in identifying the factors that are known to contribute to inaccurate identifications and, in preparation for expert testimony, have conducted over 20 empirical studies to assess the fairness of police lineups.

Case: Eyewitness Identification Procedures

A witness made an identification of a suspect in a photographic lineup six months after viewing an armed robber for a few seconds in the dark. The defense attorney wanted an expert opinion as to the fairness of the lineup for the state court.

Standard procedures for empirically assessing the fairness of a physical or photographic lineup have been used for some 25 years. The method is straightforward. If the photographic lineup is fair, a person who is given a description of the suspect from a police report should identify the suspect with a one-sixth probability.

To test the lineup used in this case, Research Design Associates researchers presented 40 people who were not actual witnesses with a description of the suspect. The photographic lineup used in the case was then shown individually to the subjects. Of the 40 subjects, 34 (85%) selected the photograph of the defendant. Study participants reported that only the defendant matched the description.

Using statistical tests, Research Design Associates determined that the probability that by chance alone 85% of the study participants selected the defendant was less than 1 in 1,000,000. The legal team presented the study’s results to the court. Given the empirical evidence of the biased lineup, the judge excluded the lineup from the trial.