According to popular television shows and movies, police lineups are a reliable way to catch criminals. Although the public believes the perception that lineups are legitimate, it is far too easy to have a wrongful conviction as a result of a lineup.
The impression that a police lineup will be effective in identifying a criminal is just wrong and misconstrued. Mistaken eyewitness accounts and identification often leads to wrongful conviction. Going off of what one says they remember or what they “saw” at a crime scene is not an accurate way to solve a crime. In fact, mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.
Generally, pretrial lineups are organized in a manipulative manner that causes a witness to lean in a certain direction and select the wrong guy. Further, police often arrange the lineup in a structure that singles out their suspect. Even worse, police make suggestions to the witness regarding how they should make their selection and prod the witness in the direction of who the police want selected.
The fact is, even if a police lineup was structured without bias, human memory is not perfect. Witnesses may have their own prejudices and psychological motivations that will cause them to the point the finger in the wrong direction.
The flawed structure and reliance on police lineups as evidence is a big concern in the criminal justice community. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences issued a detailed 140-page report outlining mistaken eyewitness identifications. The report also expounds on serious calls to action for police departments and prosecutors. It explains crucial steps to take to reduce wrongful convictions in America.