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    Standards for witness identifications and the media

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    A gunman robbed a bank. No one saw him before he entered or after he left. The police soon arrived and canvassed the area. A witness, who lived behind the bank at the time, told the police he saw it race through the alley. The witness also described the car as having a colored license plate tag advertising a car store. Through the distinctive tag, the police were able to trace ownership to the defendant. Based on the witness's subsequent identification of the car, the police arrested the defendant later that afternoon.

    The following morning, as one of the officers assembled a photo lineup, a teller from the bank telephoned and stated she had seen a report of the defendant's arrest on television the previous night, and she believed he was the robber. The officer drove to the bank and took the teller's statement. While there, another teller identified the defendant from a photo in a newspaper article about his arrest. She also gave the officer a written statement. A temporary at the bank also identified the defendant as the robber and gave her statement to the police. After these identifications, the officer never completed the lineup preparation because the police decided it would be futile. A few days later the officer returned to the bank and showed one of the tellers a photograph of the defendant which she said depicted the robber.

    Should the in-court identifications of these three tellers be suppressed? Cite any sources or cases that are reference

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    Solution Preview

    The main question you seem to be asking is whether these witnesses made legitimate identifications. Lets look through the facts of the case.

    No one saw the suspect enter or leave the bank. Did people see him while he was in the bank? It doesn't say, so we could argue that either way.

    The witness that saw 'it race through the alley' is able to make an id on the car and it would also seem that they might have been able to make an id on the suspect since the officer was apparently preparing a photo line up; who was he making this line up for if this was our only witness at the time? It would have to be our car witness. Just a thought...

    Moving forward. This entire case boils down to Neil v. Biggers 1972. The term 'impermissibly suggestive' was created from this case. So, the question becomes - was the news report that the first witness saw impermissibly suggestive? Was the newspaper article impermissibly suggestive? Was the temp bank teller influenced in a similar manner?

    Assuming that this news report is anything like the news on TV these days, it would be pretty safe to say that this would be a 'top of the news' story. There is a high probability that the news anchors would report that a ...

    Solution Summary

    A case study on case law and the effect of media influence on suspect identifications.
    Understanding the need for proper interrogation of witnesses, the role of the media in crime, and the consequences of suggestive material on witnesses. Offers 2 perspectives of the same scenario.