Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Charges Dropped over Mistaken Id

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Charges Dropped over Mistaken Id

Article excerpt

Bryan Gibbons had been arrested before for stealing and pawning jewelry.

But when Allegheny County homicide detectives brought him in for an interview and peppered him with questions for 10 hours about a Kennedy man's death and the theft of jewelry and other items from his home, Mr. Gibbons said he was baffled.

"They wanted information from me that I didn't have or didn't know," said Mr. Gibbons, 29, of Hampton.

Mr. Gibbons said he would have helped, but he couldn't. Police charged Mr. Gibbons on July 25 with receiving stolen property, relying on the identification of a Sharpsburg pawn shop employee who was shown a photo array and pointed him out as the man who tried to sell the stolen jewelry.

That charge was withdrawn Wednesday. A detective on the case contacted the Allegheny County district attorney's office and said "there was a mistaken identity and Gibbons was not the person who tried to sell the jewelry at the pawn shop," said Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney.

County homicide Lt. Andrew Schurman did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The witness declined comment.

The arrest of people based solely on witness identification has been a controversial topic lately.

"This is a case where it has its flaws," said Casey White, Mr. Gibbons' attorney.

Pittsburgh police and the DA's office have argued recently about whether officers should use sequential or simultaneous photo arrays. In a sequential array, witnesses are shown photos of possible suspects one at a time; in a simultaneous array, they are shown photos of several people, side by side.

Court documents show that an employee at a Sharpsburg pawn shop selected Mr. Gibbons after he was shown photos one at a time.

"It's scary," Mr. White said, noting that he's about the same age and build as his client and just as easily could have ended up in the array. …

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