Monday, October 29, 2007

Houston City Council "Should Be Weary of Making Apologies to Innocent People"

According to former Texas appellate judge Michol O'Connor, the time has passed to wonder about what can be done to address Houston's notorious wrongful conviction problem, just as the time has passed to wait for the Houston Police Department to fix the problems on their own. He describes status quo police lineup procedures as "a suspect process" in dire need of reform. Yet despite clear evidence of a simple solution, O'Connor points out, HPD as yet refuses to take the necessary measures:

Repeated studies have shown that the traditional lineup procedures produce mistaken identifications. Despite this, HPD continues to use those very same procedures: live and photo lineups, usually conducted by one of the officers involved in the investigation or the arrest of the suspect.

With blind lineup procedures -- where the person conducting the lineup does not know the identity of the suspect, which is unequivocally supported by everyone who has studied lineup problems -- at the top of his list, O'Connor minces no words:
City Council should force HPD to adopt these procedures

Finally, his frustration with the people with the power to fix the problem is unmistakable:
City leaders should be weary of making apologies to innocent people who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. By requiring HPD to reform its lineup procedures, the city can reduce the risk of wrongful convictions without spending millions of dollars. The Chronicle headline was right: Something needs to be done. Now.

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