Eyewitness Identification And Criminal Defense
- October 6, 2013
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In State v. Henderson, 27 A.3d 872 (N.J. 2011), an indictment for first degree murder was issued by a grand jury and the defendant was ultimately convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and weapons charges after a jury trial in which much weight was placed on an eyewitness identification. In the underlying matter, a man was shot and killed while another, who had been smoking crack and drinking wine, was held at bay in another room by an armed accomplice. The accomplice was identified by the man he held at bay during a photo lineup in the police station 13 days after the shooting. A Wade hearing was granted to determine the admissibility of the eyewitness ID and applied the Manson/Madison test to determine whether the criteria were met. The trial court decided the ID procedure implemented by the police was not impermissibly suggestive nor did it imply a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification and the eyewitness ID was admitted. The New Jersey Supreme Court considered factors which may affect an individual’s memory and divided them into lineup procedures, controlled by police, and estimator variables, including the witnesses age, lighting, lapse of time between the event and ID as well as other similar variables over which the police have no control. The defendant has the initial burden of showing police procedures were “impermissibly suggestive.” Unless there is irreparable harm, the court should present the jury with appropriately tailored instructions. The lineup, 13 days after the crime, was presided over by a detective other than the primary investigator, the eyewitness did not make an ID until told by the police to “do what he had to do” so they could be finished and the eyewitness testified he felt pushed to selecting the defendant from the lineup presented. The Court held that suggestive comments of the investigating officers during the identification procedure were substantial enough to entitle Henderson to a pretrial hearing and remanded the case for a hearing that weighs all system and estimator variables, meaningfully deters police from suggestive procedures, permits jurors to knowledgably evaluate the effects of factors on memory and flexible so as to guarantee fair proceedings. Eyewitness identification procedures are exceedingly fallible. If you have been charged with a crime as a result of eyewitness identification, there are multiple ways to attack the state’s case against you and it is critical that you obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information regarding aggravated assault, weapons charges, drug charges and other criminal matters in NJ visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.