Innocent man released from prison after serving 25 years

Studies show that eyewitness identification is unreliable and is responsible for sending a number of innocent people to prison.

Most people believe that prisoners are convicted criminals, who are serving time for some type of crime they have committed. However, the number of innocent people who have been exonerated from their prison sentences continues to climb. In 2014, one New York man was released from prison after spending 25 years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit. In fact, he was over 1,000 miles away when the crime was committed and he had evidence to prove it, according to a 4 New York News report. Yet a single eyewitness identification, which was later recanted, helped to convicted him of the crime. The man was recently awarded $6.25 million compensation package for the wrongful incarceration.

Sadly, there are many similar cases in the U.S. judicial system, and many of the victims go uncompensated for the years they have lost. According to the Innocence Project, 330 people have been exonerated from their prison sentences, 29 of cases from New York. Countless more innocent remain behind bars. These innocent people were victims of a flawed system involving eyewitness misidentification, government misconduct, bad lawyering, informants, false confessions and use of invalidated scientific practices.

The law firm of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins is uniquely qualified to investigate and pursue wrongful conviction cases. One of our attorneys, the Honorable Barry Kamins, is a former Supreme Court judge and chaired the New York State Bar Association's Task Force on Wrongful Commission that identified numerous causes of wrongful convictions, including eyewitness misidentifications. He currently co-chairs the State Bar Committee on Wrongful Convictions.

Eyewitness misidentification

Studies show that eyewitness identification provides highly inaccurate and unreliable results when it comes to choosing a suspect out of a photo or physical lineup. According to the American Bar Association, there are many reasons for these inaccuracies including the following:

  • The human memory changes over time. As people learn new information about the crime their memory can change to accommodate the information. People are also less likely to recall crucial details of the crime as time passes.
  • People are less likely to remember details of a crime when they are under significant amounts of stress. This is especially true if a weapon is used during the crime.
  • Verbal and physical suggestions made by lineup administrators may lead a witness to choose a certain person out of a lineup.
  • People are more likely to make a misidentification if they are identifying a person that is of a different race than their own.
  • Other factors can affect the reliability of witnesses identification, such as how far the witness was standing from the perpetrator, how much light was present and whether the perpetrator was wearing a mask.

Eyewitness misidentification was involved in at least 70 percent of the cases that were exonerated by DNA evidence, as reported by the Innocence Project.

Partnering with an attorney

You may feel scared and overwhelmed if you are facing criminal charges. You have rights, and may want to speak with an established defense attorney regarding your options. A lawyer in New York may be able to investigate the specific details of your case and help to answer any questions you may have.