PORTLAND, Ore. —
It's that attitude that gives advocates of reform migraines, said Rebecca Brown, state policy reform director for the Innocence Project, which pursues exonerations of the wrongfully convicted.
"We joke in the office that it's like climate change," she said. "There's settled science, and then there's this group of people denying it."
The U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to establish a national standard for eyewitness testimony when it handled a 2012 case from New Hampshire. The court instead delegated that responsibility to the states, which could choose to overhaul their laws or do nothing at all. Most chose the latter.
In Maryland, however, legislators this week passed a bill that overhauls eyewitness identification procedures, joining roughly a half-dozen states and cities.
Among the changes that they've made is to require the witness to declare how confident they are in the identification, mandate that officers let a witness looking at a lineup know that "none of the above" is an acceptable response.
Governments have also instituted "blind" lineup administrators — people who don't know who the suspect is — and a lineup that doesn't unfairly single out a suspect. They also call for any photo lineups of suspects to be randomized.
In Texas, the state allowed agencies to cut the law to fit their individual needs. Law enforcement agencies must either adopt the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas' guidelines for lineups composed of people or photographs, or submit their own plan that conforms to it.
While legislatures have pushed some of the changes, courts in Oregon and New Jersey have also gotten involved in setting stringent requirements.
In Oregon, for example, the justices unanimously said they couldn't ignore thousands of studies and years of evidence demonstrating how notoriously unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. Now, prosecutors must first show the testimony is more likely than not to be reliable.