Chicago Police phasing out suspect lineups - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Chicago Police phasing out suspect lineups

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The days of lining up suspects so witnesses and victims can have a look at them may be numbered in Chicago.

A Chicago police lineup in the past helped put Juan Johnson behind bars for eleven years for murder, until he was exonerated. He claimed the lineup was rigged. He was a lot bigger than everyone else.

Johnson's attorney, Jon Loevy, said it's just one of the ways that lineups can lead to misidentifications, and wrongful convictions.

“It’s incredibly common, and we know from DNA studies now, it’s the single greatest cause of wrongful conviction…is witness misidentification,” said Loevy.

Now, Chicago police are implementing changes that will reduce the use of lineups here by an estimated 70%.

“We looked at them and we saw that we weren't really in step with the rest of the country,” said Deputy Chief of Detectives Tony Riccio.

Riccio said that where suspects are identified by showing photo arrays to witnesses, a subsequent physical lineup with one suspect and several so-called fillers is redundant. It can also further traumatize a victim. So, detectives in two-thirds of the city are no longer using lineups where photos produce acceptable results. That's freed up a lot of manpower.

“The process of a lineup from start to finish is probably four to six hours. You’re talking two detectives, plus you're talking six to eight police officers that are taken off the street, cars that are taken off the street, so it’s really a drain on resources for a step that we believe is redundant in the first place,” said Riccio.

Loevy said it's a step in the right direction, but photo ID’s can be just as unreliable. He wants more safeguards, including the recording of witness identifications.

“They're to be commended, but there are a lot of steps they could put in place there that would really solve, go much farther to solve the problem,” added Loevy.

As for prosecutors, a spokesman for State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said that physical lineups might sometimes be unnecessary, but when a suspect is in custody, physical lineups are still the preferred practice.

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