Criminologists are finding ways to reduce the troubling incidence of false identifications in police lineups. The most important step is making the procedure "double blind," that is, making sure the people conducting the lineup are not part of the case and don't know which guy is the suspect. When the lineup is conducted by the arresting officers, they send clues that have been shown to influence the witness toward the guy they already suspect. Another technique is "sequential" lineups, that is, presenting the witness with a series of photographs of possible suspects one after another, rather than all at once. A new study finds that this reduces the rate of false identifications from 18 percent to 12 percent.
And that's good, but 12 percent is still a troublingly high figure for false identificationss. At least with the double blind system in place, the false ids are probably pretty random, and therefore don't have very important consequences for the wrongly identified man.