Governor Scott promised more jobs and Sen. Joe Negron, Republician from Port St. Lucie has a bill about to be introduced that may create new businesses in the State of Florida. Negron’s bill would require police to use a third party “unfamiliar” with the case to administer photographic lineups. The purpose of the bill is to prevent the police from influencing a victim into identifying an innocent suspect. Negron had his bill reviewed by the Florida Innocence Commission (how many readers ever heard of this commission?) on Monday, 21 March 2011, and it passed by a 8-12 vote.
The bill to set minimum standards for police line ups was prompted by a case involving Wilton Dedge, who was convicted in Brevard County, of rape, aggravated battery and burglary in 1982. The victim’s identification and the testimony of a dog handler who was later discredited and an infamous jailhouse informant, all helped get Dedge convicted. Dedge was released in 2004 after he was cleared by DNA evidence. The use of DNA evidence was not available at the time of his conviction. Based on two sets of statistics, there were 12 documented mis-identification solved through the use of DNA and of 267 wrongful arrests, of which 75% were believed to be through victim’s mis-identification.
If the bill becomes law, jurisdictions will have to develop plans to hire 3rd parties to conduct police photo line-ups. As with many bills, there is no funding that come with the extra burden. For example, a victim believes that he/she was robbed by an old school friend. If there is a photo of this suspect in a yearbook, a third party would have to show the book to the victim for identification and not the police. In addition, based on the wording of the bill, the third party would have to somehow establish that they are “unfamiliar” with the case. And, of course, for the third party’s effort a fee would have to be paid. The police agency could also hire an additional staff member to act as that third party, but the problem of being “unfamiliar” could exist. It is believed that many police agencies will just stop using photo line ups to get around the bill’s requirements.
The bottom line is it just does not appear to be a problem any more with DNA testing available and our legislators need to be concentrating on more pressing issues. Florida Department of Law Enforcement just established new standards for police line ups without the use of a third party and no additional costs involved.