Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $499,960)
Eyewitness identification practices are a persistent contributing factor to wrongful convictions. Nationally, more than one out of four exonerations involved an eyewitness identification error, the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) has devoted significant resources to identifying and reviewing cases involving eyewitness identifications. Investigating the Role of Policing Practice in Eyewitness Misidentification: A Novel Method for Researching Eyewitness Identification Practices and Reviewing Post-Conviction Innocence Cases is a partnership between MIP and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York to research whether officers are more likely to place Black than White suspects in identification procedures when there is little to no evidence that they are guilty.
It is imperative that innocent people convicted in MIP’s whose conviction relied on faulty eyewitness identification practices have their cases reviewed. This research project is a unique opportunity to fully understand the breadth of improper eyewitness identification practices in MIP’s region. In addition to the research this grant will fund, it will also allow MIP to prioritize the review and investigation of non-DNA eyewitness identification cases. This effort serves to improve public safety because when witnesses identify an innocent suspect, the actual perpetrator is likely to go free. The potential of the proposed research can have the same public safety outcomes on an exponentially larger scale; victims’ and survivors’ cases can be investigated using more reliable methods to help identify the actual perpetrator, and policing practices that place Black people at higher risk for being wrongfully convicted can be identified and changed.