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Why criminal lineups are a concern, mandate material change

From the perspective of a "suspect" in a flawed criminal lineup in Colorado or elsewhere, it's pretty easy to see why concern would attach to the process.

What if that person stands a head taller than everyone else in line, with an officer pointedly reminding an eyewitness that the perpetrator of the crime was an unusually large man? What if the spotlight lingers on him far longer than on anyone else? What if officers standing beside the witness become comparatively animated or suggestive in their comments as the witness turns attention to that individual?

Such things have been duly commented upon and progressively criticized by criminal law reformers nationally in recent years, especially in the wake of one dramatic piece of empirical evidence.

That is this: Misidentification from eyewitnesses has been revealed as a prime catalyst in many hundreds of wrongful convictions that were later reversed by DNA evidence proving innocence.

That alarming - and clearly damning - evidence points straight to infirmities in the lineup process employed by select police departments.

They need to change their procedures and strategies, charge high numbers of broad-based and diverse critics. Those commentators lament that heightened subjectivity coupled with subtle cues eyewitnesses receive during conducted lineups too often yield wrong outcomes.

As noted in one national report on criminal lineup deficiencies and reform suggestions, legislators in many states agree. Reportedly, there is a strong tailwind of change evident across the country, with about half of all states now promoting new and more objective lineup policies.

Notwithstanding what the lineup philosophy and attendant procedures are in any given state (including Colorado), due concern will always attach to the process in every criminal law matter where it features. A lineup is a "critical stage" of the investigative process, at which a suspect has a compelling need for proven legal counsel.

Questions or concerns regarding lineups or any other criminal law matter relevant to Colorado can be directed to attorneys at an established Denver law firm.

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