Thursday, May 10, 2007

Failure to Resolve ID Issues = New Trial

Just came across an interesting decision from the great state of New Jersey from a couple weeks back, in which the New Jersey Superior Court overturned a conviction because the trial court failed to resolve factual issues relating to ID procedures. (State v. Greene, Not Reported in A.2d, 2007 WL 1223906 (N.J.Super.A.D. 2007))

The case involved an armed robbery of a Domino's Pizza restaurant. Shortly after the robbery, police showed up, and apparently in the presence and earshot of the witness, the officer on the scene received a radio call stating that the "guy who committed the robbery" had been apprehended. The officer on the scene then took the suspect to a field location to conduct a show-up.

There were several factual disputes that were left unresolved at the Wade hearing (determining the reliability of the ID), including a complete lack of information about clothing in original description by the witness that "evolved at the Wade hearing to match precisely the items revealed to Heiman by the prosecutor," unresolved issues regarding whether the suspect was on the ground or in a police car during the show-up and how far away the witness was, and an additional unresolved problem with the fact that the defendant was paraded in front of the witness in an orange jumpsuit and shackles immediately prior to the hearing itself.

Citing this article (PDF) on everything that's wrong with Manson v. Brathwaite, along with other works chronicling the problems with eyewitness evidence and the due process standard that should be serving to protect against the admission of unreliable procedures, the NJ Superior Court overturned the conviction, ordering a new Wade hearing and a new trial.

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