Eyewitness Reliability and Due Process

Identification by an eyewitness is notoriously unreliable and yet has a powerful influence on jurors. Testimony that has been intentionally influenced by the police or prosecutor may be barred, but what if the circumstances surrounding the identification were suggestive, but unintended?

The case is Perry v. New Hampshire.  The witness identified Barion Perry as a “tall black man” she saw standing next to a police officer in a dark parking lot, and Perry was convicted of theft based partly on her testimony.

As public defender Richard Guerriero argued to exclude any unreliable witness ID, the Justices seemed unlikely to expand the umbrella of due process. SC111102_Guerriero

Richard Guerrierro, arguing for petitioner Perry, is pictured above as Scalia asks, “Why is unreliable eyewitness identification any different from unreliable anything else? So shouldn’t we look at every instance of evidence introduced in criminal cases to see if it was reliable or not?”

Pictured below is New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delany, who had an easier time of it. SC111102_Delany

HuffPost’s Mike Sacks does a great job of reporting it here.




Art Lien

Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980. Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a "pool" artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.

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