UHLC's Thompson helps draft policy to reduce wrongful convictions

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September 26, 2011 – The University of Houston Law Center Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson participated in the development of a model policy on eyewitness identification procedures for Texas law enforcement during a meeting of the Eyewitness Identifications Working Group. The meeting took place at the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville Sept. 23.

The new procedures will be implemented pursuant to a new law passed in January 2011. Texas will become the fifth state to issue state-of-the-art procedures for eyewitness identifications as a means of reducing wrongful convictions.

“The new rules aim to reduce the suggestiveness that can cause an eyewitness to select the person known by the police officer to be the suspect,” Thompson said. “They also include a variety of requirements that prevent artificially inflating a witness’s confidence in the selection and the possibility of witnesses influencing each other.”

Approximately 50 people were in attendance, including representatives of several police departments and district attorney’s offices, the judiciary, academia, and the Innocence Project of Texas. Thompson is the University of Houston Law Foundation Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the Law Center. She is a national expert on eyewitness identification procedures and a member of the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions for the Texas Legislature.

Sandra Thompson Meeting
Scott Ehlers, left, Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson, Judge Barbara Hervey, Judge Hervey's staff attorney, and Chief James McLaughlin of the Texas Police Chiefs Association were among the attendees of the Eyewitness Identifications Working Group.

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