Behind the Double Blind: Eyewitness ID Report Reveals What Dallas PD Already Knows

It wasn't so long ago that Dallas Police Department would show witnesses for the prosecution six photos of would-be suspects and ask: Which one? Which is how, in part, Dallas became what Innocence Project of Texas founder Jeff Blackburn called "ground zero for criminal justice change" in our 2007 cover story on how so many found themselves incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit. But in '09, all that changed: Initiated by then-Chief David Kunkle, DPD now has a special unit of officers without connections to any case who show witnesses one photo at a time -- the so-called "sequential double-blind" method.

Back in August, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling concerning a New Jersey case that said eyewitness procedures there were profoundly flawed, The New York Times checked back in with the DPD, which had to overcome some initial resistance ("detectives ... felt that their integrity was being challenged") during the transition. But it was worth it: This morning, the American Judicature Society, in conjunction with the Innocence Project, released a report that looks at 850 lineups in four cities, among them Austin, which reiterates the need for and success of double-blinds. Says the study, per this recap: "Photographs presented one by one by a person not directly connected with a case significantly reduced identifications of fillers (people known not to be the suspect) from 18 percent in simultaneous lineups to 12 percent in sequential ones."

Dallas is once again cited as an early adapter, though there are exceptions ("Other specialized circumstances where alternative procedures are necessary and are reviewed by the District Attorney and approved by the Investigations Bureau Commander"). But in its list of Texas jurisdictions requiring the double-blind sequential presentation, only Dallas and Lewisville are listed under "required"; in Austin and Richardson, it's "optional."

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