A recent survey by the Ohio Innocent Project found that, of the 156 law enforcement agencies that participated, less than two-thirds have a written policy on police lineups of suspects. Only half of respondents said they even had a policy on recording the interrogations of suspects. The policies provided by the participants, less than half were able to provide a written policy, showed that few departments are following the law. The law in question was passed in 2010 and mandates the use of “blind” lineups to identify possible suspects. Blind lineups use an investigator or officer who is not involved in the investigation and does not know the identity of the suspect. This prevents the officer from giving intentional or unintentional clues to the person asked to identify a suspect. In smaller departments, a folder shuffle technique is often used in place of a physical lineup. Each folder contains the picture of a different individual, one of which is the suspect. A neutral administrator gives the person the folders and tells them one of folders may contain a picture of the suspect.
The Ohio Innocence Project believes this is a huge problem. The two leading causes of wrongful convictions are eyewitness misidentification and false confessions obtained during interrogations. Additionally, 61 of the wrongful convictions that have been overturned in Ohio since 1989 have involved incorrect witness identifications and two involved false confessions. These represent almost half of all wrongful convictions in Ohio and underscore the importance of police departments following best practices
A spokesmen for the Columbus Department of Police said they use blind lineups procedures and record interrogations, especially in homicide cases. He expressed the desire of all officers and investigators to use the best practices available, because they want to do everything in their power to ensure the right person is convicted of any crime. Likewise, attorneys for those accused of a crime cannot do their part to prevent wrongful convictions if there are not recordings of their client’s interrogation for them to view. Even the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has expressed concern about the apparent lack of adherence to the law in place to prevent mistakes. A spokesperson for the office said they strongly encourage law enforcement to use best practices whenever feasible. The spokesperson said the office felt that it would be “appropriate for the General Assembly to review these relevant statutes, including whether they should become mandatory or remain best practices.” It was also suggested penalties could be imposed for in agency found to be noncompliant with the law.
Ohio’s statute was passed following an investigation that exposed the state’s faulty system for testing DNA obtained during investigations. During the course of the investigation, five men were freed from prison and exonerated. The men’s prison sentences combined totaled almost 100 years. Two other men were freed but not exonerated. The consequences of wrongful conviction do not stop at men and women serving often lengthy prison sentences for crimes they did not commit. Wrongful convictions also allow the people responsible for actually committing the crime to remain free to victimize others. Preventing wrongful convictions through implementing and mandating procedures proven to reduce the rates of wrongful convictions is in everyone’s best interest.
If you need a lawyer for a criminal State or Federal call Columbus, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney Joe Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.