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Raoul modernizes the criminal lineup for better eyewitness ID

lineupSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) won Senate approval today for legislation he introduced to bring the criminal suspect lineup into the 21st century and prevent false identifications. The measure requires law enforcement agencies to videotape lineups whenever possible and encourages them to embrace methods, such as computer-generated lineups and independent administrators, that have been shown to result in more reliable identifications.

“Eyewitness identification, while a valuable tool in prosecution, is notoriously unreliable unless handled carefully,” said Raoul, who worked for several years as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office after earning his law degree in 1993. “Memories and perceptions can change over time and in stressful circumstances, and it is imperative that criminal lineups be conducted in a rigorous and impartial manner to reduce the incidence of false identifications and, ultimately, false convictions that ruin lives and let the real perpetrators walk free.”

House Bill 802 requires law enforcement agencies to — whenever practical — use one of several methods to conduct a lineup in an impartial manner, give witnesses instructions designed to reduce the frequency of mistaken identifications, protect the identity of eyewitnesses and any police officers used in the lineup, video record the procedure (unless the eyewitness refuses) and keep records of how the lineup was conducted. The legislation establishes detailed standards for various kinds of lineups in an attempt to prevent witnesses from being swayed toward identifying the suspect or pressured to make an identification when they aren’t sure they recognize the perpetrator. Current law requires only that lineups be photographed and that suspects not look substantially different from the other individuals (“fillers”) in the lineup.

Raoul worked with state’s attorneys to make sure the legislation increased the reliability of the eyewitness identification process while not impeding the work of law enforcement or prosecutors. He was aided immeasurably in this effort by House sponsor and former federal prosecutor Representative Scott Drury (D-Highwood) and noted criminal justice expert and former U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan, who also worked with Sen. Raoul to abolish the death penalty in 2011.

Next, the House must vote to approve the Senate’s changes to HB 802 before it goes to the governor’s desk.