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Police photo lineup test demonstrates challenges with witness identifications

Rock Center

Slightly more than half of all people who took Rock Center's mock police photo lineup test were able to identify the correct suspect.

In early April, correspondent Josh Mankiewicz reported on new challenges to the way photo lineups are administered by law enforcement agencies after a series of wrongful convictions were identified. Viewers were then asked to take part in an unscientific test by watching a video of a mock crime taking place and then trying to identify the correct person seen in the video out of six fictional suspects.

Out of 2,499 responses since the Rock Center report was broadcast, 1,347 were correct -- 54 percent -- meaning 46 percent of test takers selected the wrong suspect from the mock police photo lineup.

Counter to the “live lineups” we see on television, in actual crimes more often than not the detective or officer working the case presents the witness with a five or six-person photo lineup. One of the people in the lineup is the actual suspect and the rest are what are referred to as “fillers,” all chosen to roughly resemble the suspect. However, decades of research suggest that this traditional method is flawed. Nationwide, 75 percent of prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence were convicted on the basis of faulty eyewitness identification. As a result some states and law enforcement agencies across the country are beginning to change their procedures.

Click here to watch Josh Mankiewicz's original Rock Center report and take the mock lineup test below.