In March, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan homicide case discussing the propriety of a show-up identification made by a witness. A show-up identification is one in which police show a single person to a witness, asking if that is the person they believe committed the crime.
Show-up identifications are inherently suspect because they are suggestive in that the witness will almost always know that the person they are asked about is being investigated for their involvement in a crime. Thus, courts require law enforcement officers to take special precautions to ensure these identification procedures are not unfairly suggestive.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over on suspicion of homicide after his vehicle was identified by a witness. Another witness, Jones, identified the defendant as the shooter. At the time of the shooting, Jones was riding in the back seat of a car. Jones described the shooter as a bald black man wearing black pants and a white shirt.
Four to five hours after police pulled over the defendant’s vehicle and arrested him, they called Jones into the station to make an identification. Jones was shown the defendant and asked if he was the shooter. One of the detectives testified that Jones did not make an identification; however, a second detective testified that Jones identified the defendant. Jones denied ever making an identification.
The defendant filed a motion to exclude the second detective’s testimony that Jones identified the defendant. The defendant claimed that the identification procedure was unfairly suggestive.
The court agreed with the defendant, holding that the identification was inadmissible. The court explained that the show-up identification was suggestive, in that it indicated to Jones that the defendant was the focus of a criminal investigation. Further, the court noted that a show-up identification was unnecessary in this case and only served the officers’ convenience. The court reasoned that the defendant was in police custody at the time, and that the identification occurred four to five hours after the arrest. The court explained that there was nothing preventing the officers from taking a little more time to conduct a more reliable identification procedure.
The court went on to hold that the improperly conducted identification created a substantial likelihood of misidentification. As a result, the court ordered that the identification be suppressed, and the defendant was granted a new trial.
Have You Been Arrested Based on a Witnesses’ Identification?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime after being identified by a witness, you have more rights than you may realize. Over recent decades, the identification procedures used by law enforcement have received scrutiny for being unduly suggestive. At Michigan Defense Law, our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys has extensive experience handling the complex issues surrounding eyewitness identifications. We routinely handle Michigan theft cases, burglary offenses and other crimes involving civilian witness identifications. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call 248-451-2200 today.