Connecticut Supreme Court Mandates That Juries Generally Be Informed of the Risks Inherent in Eyewitness Identification Procedures When the Eyewitness Has Not Been Warned That the Perpetrator May Not Be Present

Article excerpt

A unanimous Connecticut Supreme Court has crafted a jury instruction that generally must be given in trials when an eyewitness identification is entered into evidence. The court noted that psychological studies document that a witness is more likely to misidentify an innocent individual as the perpetrator of a crime during an identification procedure (e.g., during a photo array or lineup) where the witness is not warned that the perpetrator might not be present. The court added the research also shows that warning the witness that the perpetrator might not be present does not significantly decrease the percentage of correct identifications.

The procedure used in this case was described as a "street show-up" where the victim of a crime, while sitting in a police cruiser in a well-lit setting twenty minutes after having been attacked, was asked to observe five handcuffed suspects and to indicate whether any of them had attacked him. In reviewing a subsequent identification, the court noted that several factors are to be considered in determining whether an identification is reliable, including the victim's opportunity to view the criminal and degree of attention at the time of the crime, the accuracy of the victim's prior description of the criminal, the level of certainty demonstrated at the identification, and the amount of time between the crime and the identification. Although the court cited psychological research that indicates that (1) there is a poor correlation between the expressed level of certainty in an identification and its accuracy and (2) a witness' level of confidence is malleable and susceptible to cues from the administrator of the identification procedure, the court determined that these studies were not sufficient to require a change in the test used to ascertain the reliability of an eyewitness identification procedure. …