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Doing Lineups Right

Doing Lineups Right

In the movies, a lineup of potential "bad guys" is quite typically protrayed as it is in the movie, "Peppermint". This clip from the movie (1 minute) shows a woman's family being murdered and all three key suspects are shown to the woman in a lineup of 6 men:



There are actually quite a few problems with this approach. Victims are subtely told that the perpetrator is in the lineup and they feel compelled to pick someone out, even if they're not that sure. As pointed out in the Los Angeles Times article (Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and police and lawmakers know it), there are some scientifically supported ways to conduct lineups that sometimes are not carried out:


  1. Police should use "double-blind" procedures in which the person conducting the lineup or showing the photos doesn't know which person is the leading suspect
  2. Witnesses should be told that the suspect may or may not be among the people in the lineup
  3. Lineups and photo spreads should be videotaped, so that the integrity of the procedures can be examined after the fact.


Class Exercise:

You might want to show the 1-minute video clip above to students (or here's the link to the video on YouTube) and ask them:


  • How realistic is this portrayal of a police lineup?
  • What factors might lead the victim to identify the wrong guy?
  • How would you improve the lineup process so you can eliminate these "false positive" identifications?


Also: your criminal justice MindTap course suggests another procedure to improve lineups: simultaneous vs. sequential lineups.


Here's how to add this video to your MindTap course



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