Thursday, October 21, 2010

NC Court of Appeals Eviscerates the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act ("EIRA")

On Monday, in State v. Rawls. the Court of Appeals handled an appeal of a felony breaking and entering conviction. Defendant challenged an in court identification, as the procedures for the out-of-court ID violated the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (15A-284.52) "EIRA". Court found no error.

Due to common problems of misidentification in criminal cases, the EIRA established specific procedures for conducting line-ups and photo arrays prevent bias and make sure those procedures weren't unduly suggestive. In Rawls, the Court found that the EIRA didn't apply to show-ups (think line-up, but with only one person present)--the most suggestive possible form of ID. In other words, the cops take the defendant, likely in handcuffs, and say to the witness: is this the guy?

In so doing, the COA has effectively eviscerating the value of the EIRA. The blame for this, however, is properly at the legislatures feet. Show-ups are a well known, common ID problem and the legislation was vague enough that the court had wiggle room not to apply it to show ups and--as we all no--if the COA can find any reasonable way to deny relief to a defendant, it will.

No judges dissented.

To NC General Assembly: FIX THIS! No more show ups.


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