Appellate Law, Criminal Defense, Criminal Appeals & Criminal Appellate Review and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit for Criminal Attorneys, Criminal Lawyers & Appellate Lawyers
Perp walks. We’ve all seen them on the news. The police parading the suspects for all the news cameras to get their shots of the guy in handcuffs. What is the history of the perp walk? For a discussion of the perp walk, you can read an interesting article by NPR by clicking here. Inspired by the perp walk of Dominique Strauss Kahn, French citizen and former head of the IMF, NPR also published another report titled “French Law, American Custom and the Perp Walk.”
People have been debating the usefulness of perp walks for some time now. Michel Martin published a thought provoking article on the usefulness of perp walks last August. Only weeks after Strauss Kahn made his perp walk, New York City Mayor Bloomberg has spoken out against perp walks, calling them outrageous. It’s too early to say if this could be the beginning of the end for the perp walk. Only time will tell. But in my view, perp walks are completely at odds with one of our legal system’s core principles: innocent until proven guilty.
The Sun Sentinel reports that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will implement new statewide procedures in an effort to increase the reliability of eyewitness identifications which are made based on police lineups. The new procedures were introduced after the Florida Innocence Commission, which was formed by the Florida Supreme Court to examine the issue of wrongful convictions, determined that about 70 percent of wrongful convictions are the result of mistaken identity. Under the new procedures, police are supposed to advise witnesses that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup, and that the witness need not pick anyone. The police are also supposed to refrain from doing anything which would influence the witness, and to document the identification procedure, including the witness’ response and exact words. Finally, the police are supposed to use someone who is not familiar with the case to conduct the lineup. Although the official FDLE report indicates that police agencies are supposed to be in compliance by November 1, 2011, the report does not discuss whether any specific remedies will be available in cases where police agencies either fail to adopt conforming procedures by the November 1 deadline, or fail to follow the proper statewide standards in individual cases.
The State of Florida is not alone. On July 6, 2011, NPR aired a report discussing changes being introduced in the State of Texas.
Prior to FDLE’s announcement, police agencies across the state implemented their own procedures for lineups. Most criminal defense attorneys know how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. (For an interesting discussion on that subject, you might want to go to NPR to listen to a story that aired on June 20, 2011). However, perhaps with the introduction of the new statewide standards, eyewitness identification based on police lineups will become more reliable.