News & Events
Posted March 29, 2013

UVA Law Symposium Aims to Improve Police Eyewitness ID Procedures in Virginia

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International Law SymposiumUpdate: "Eyewitness Memory and the Social Science Research" with Jennifer Dysart (Video, Podcast). Jennifer Dysart, one of the nation's leading experts on the factors influencing the accuracy of eyewitness identification, spoke at UVA Law at a recent symposium on "Eyewitness Identification Procedures in the Commonwealth."


An upcoming symposium at the University of Virginia School of Law will bring together law enforcement personnel, policymakers, prosecutors, social scientists, legal academics and law students to discuss how to improve police lineup and eyewitness procedures in Virginia.

The symposium, "Eyewitness Identification Procedures in the Commonwealth," is sponsored by the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law, in collaboration with UVA Law School and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. It will be held on Wednesday, April 3, in Caplin Auditorium. (Full schedule)

"Our goal is to combine the unique perspectives of our participants to create an informed discussion on lineup policies in Virginia and across the country, along with possible changes in the future," said third-year law student Greg Gellert, special projects editor of the journal. "The speakers and panelists we will be hosting throughout the day will explore current eyewitness identification practices, along with potential improvements that are sourced from social science research and model rules."

Contact: Brian McNeill

The symposium comes as several states, including Virginia, have reconsidered eyewitness identification policies to improve the accuracy of criminal investigations and prevent wrongful convictions.

Jennifer Dysart, an associate professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York in New York City, will deliver a keynote address at the symposium at 10:20 a.m. Dysart, who is one of the nation's most-published and well-known experts on the factors influencing the accuracy of eyewitness identification, will discuss eyewitness memory and social science research.

As part of a police round table on lineups, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo and Detective-Sgt. David Harris will discuss training and policy, while Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins and retired Roanoke County Police Capt. Philip Patrone will speak on the implementation of "blind" lineups — meaning that the officer running the lineup does not know which person in the lineup is the suspect.

A Virginia policy round table will feature Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police; Gary M. Dillon, manager of the Virginia Accreditation Center at the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services; Teresa Gooch, division director for the Division of Law Enforcement, Department of Criminal Justice Services; and Mike Doucette, commonwealth's attorney for the City of Lynchburg and president of the Commonwealth's Attorney Association.

In the fall of 2011, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services issued a model policy for police lineups and eyewitness identification, crafted with the assistance of UVA law professor Brandon Garrett, a leading expert on wrongful convictions. (More)

Garrett, who is helping organize the symposium, said that while Virginia has implemented eyewitness ID guidelines that are a model for the nation, more remains to be done in police departments across Virginia.

"Although great work has been put into training on the excellent model policy, most departments have not yet adopted it," he said. "Most departments still have highly error-prone policies that are sequential, showing photos one at a time, but not blind, making them highly susceptible to unintentional police suggestion."

Garrett has been conducting a survey of Virginia police departments' lineup policies. So far, he said, the data shows there is "much room for improvement" and suggests that the upcoming symposium will be useful in promoting best practices.

Of the 183 law enforcement departments he has reviewed so far, 138 had eyewitness ID policies. Of those, less than one-third required blind lineup policies, and only a few more made blind lineup procedures available as an option.

"This is deeply troubling, since both the current DCJS model policy adopted in 2011 and revised in 2012, and the prior DCJS model policy dating back to July 1, 2005, had recommended use of blind lineup procedures," he said.

Many departments, he said, lacked policies detailing the instructions to be given to an eyewitness. Many did not require careful documentation of the eyewitness' confidence in his or her own words. And many did not have clear rules governing "show-ups," or when police present a single suspect before an eyewitness for identification.

"All of this suggests that there is a real need to talk more about why best practices are important, because getting lineups right is so important, and this is a problem that is not going away," Garrett said.

The symposium will be free and open to the public, though registration is required for attendees who are not law students or faculty members. Parking will be available at the Law School during the event.


Schedule - Wednesday, April 3

10 a.m.
Introductions
Greg Schneider, editor-in-chief, Virginia Journal of Criminal Law
Greg Gellert, special projects editor, Virginia Journal of Criminal Law

Symposium Overview
Brandon L. Garrett, Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
10:20 a.m.
Keynote Address: "Eyewitness Memory and the Social Science Research" 
Jennifer Dysart, associate professor of psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, New York City
11:30 a.m.
Q&A Session
12-1 p.m.
Break for Lunch
1 p.m.
Police Round Table on Lineups

Training and Policy
Chief Timothy J. Longo, Charlottesville Police Department
Detective-Sgt. David Harris, Charlottesville Police Department

Implementing Blind Lineups
Chief Chris Perkins, Roanoke Police Department
Philip Patrone, captain, Roanoke County Police Department (retired)
2 p.m.
Virginia Policy Round Table

Accreditation
Gary Dillon, manager of the Virginia Accreditation Center, Virginia Department of Criminal Justices Services

The Role of DCJS
Theresa Gooch, division director for the Division of Law Enforcement, Virginia Department of Criminal Justices Services

Best Practices
Dana Schrad, executive director, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police; secretary, Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators

The Prosecutor’s Perspective
Mike Doucette, commonwealth’s attorney, City of Lynchburg; president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys
2:15 p.m.
Q&A, Discussion and Concluding Remarks
Moderated by Brandon L. Garrett, Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law