Policing and Wrongful Convictions NIJ 2014
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New Perspectives in Policing augus t 2014 VE RI TAS HARVARD Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management National Institute of Justice Policing and Wrongful Convictions Anthony W. Batts, Maddy deLone and Darrel W. Stephens Introduction Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety Few events subject the criminal justice system to This is one in a series of papers that will be published as a result of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. officials, the media and the general public as the Harvard’s Executive Sessions are a convening of individuals of independent standing who take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. Members are selected based on their experiences, their reputation for thoughtfulness and their potential for helping to disseminate the work of the Session. In the early 1980s, an Executive Session on Policing helped resolve many law enforcement issues of the day. It produced a number of papers and concepts that revolutionized policing. Thirty years later, law enforcement has changed and NIJ and the Harvard Kennedy School are again collaborating to help resolve law enforcement issues of the day. Learn more about the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety at: www.NIJ.gov, keywords “Executive Session Policing” www.hks.harvard.edu, keywords “Executive Session Policing” as intense scrutiny from policymakers, elected exoneration of a wrongfully convicted defendant. The multimillion-dollar settlement recently announced by New York City in the notorious case of the Central Park Five has once again brought the injustice of wrongful convictions and the corollary injustice of failing to convict the real assailant to the forefront of the national consciousness. (In that case, five black and Latino teenagers were convicted on the basis of false confessions of the brutal — and widely publicized — rape of a young woman jogging in Central Park. All were tried as adults and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, then exonerated years later when the real perpetrator confessed to the crime — a confession corroborated by DNA evidence.) As this and other high-profile wrongful convictions continue to spark controversy, a dispassionate, thoughtful examination of the systemic causes of wrongful convictions and their potential solutions can benefit all components of the criminal justice system and the community at large. 2 | New Perspectives in Policing Given their function as gatekeepers to the crimi- assist with post-conviction investigations and nal justice system and as the initial point of work with other stakeholders to uncover past contact with offenders, accused offenders, vic- errors. The conclusion explains why adopting tims and ordinary citizens, police agencies are these recommendations will provide both justice in the most advantageous position to conduct and public safety advantages: (1) they will mini- such an examination. This paper calls for strong mize the number of innocent individuals who leadership from police agencies to lead reviews of are wrongly convicted and (2) they will prevent wrongful convictions that can be learning experi- police from overlooking the actual perpetrator ences for all components of the criminal justice early in an investigation because of misleading system. The lessons learned from these reviews evidence that points to the wrong person, thereby can lead to the implementation of changes in increasing the number of perpetrators correctly practice across criminal justice agencies that identified in the initial stage. will improve justice without compromising safety. The recommendations are comprehensive, farSection I reviews what has been learned from reaching, and necessitate strong leadership from studying exonerations over the past 20 years, police agencies, both to implement and to pro- including who the exonerees are, the factors that vide the guidance required for the entire criminal contribute to wrongful convictions, and the best justice community to adopt a more systemwide practices that address these factors. Section II approach to learning from wrongful convictions looks at the role cognitive biases play in wrongful and to improve the system as a whole. convictions. Section III presents several recomthe likelihood of wrongful convictions and that I. What Have We Learned From Exonerations? are important for police departments to adopt. After getting into a car accident with his neigh- These recommendations include best practices bor on November 21, 1981, Henry James, then 20 that address known contributing factors, includ- years old, went to inform his neighbor’s wife that ing eyewitness identification, false confessions, her husband had been arrested. The next morning informant testimony and evidence preserva- at 6 a.m., the neighbor’s wife was awakened by an tion. This section also suggests an approach for intruder who raped her at knifepoint and then left learning from error and viewing mistakes as the home. She immediately called the police and systemwide weaknesses. Section IV provides told them that the perpetrator was a black male suggestions for how police can cooperate and whom she did not know. mendations that research shows will minimize Cite this paper as: Batts, Anthony, Maddy deLone and Darrel Stephens, Policing and Wrongful Convictions. New Perspectives in Policing Bulletin. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2014. NCJ 246328. During a search of the community the following day, an officer saw James and thought he fit the description of the perpetrator. The investigator on the case placed James’ picture in a photo book with 75 other Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 3 black males, and the victim identified James from his progresses, it is inevitable that many more wrong- photo. James was later placed in a live lineup with ful convictions will be uncovered. individuals who failed to match the description provided by the victim and was again identified by the Some ask how many innocent people have been victim. Biological evidence was taken from both the convicted. The truth is that we will never know, but victim and James, and no matches were confirmed. academics have looked at the question in discrete At trial, James’ stepfather testified that James was crime categories. In a study that reviewed defen- sleeping in the bed beside him on the morning of the dants sentenced to death for murders involving attack and woke up for work at 6:30 a.m. Another rape between 1982 and 1989, Risinger (2008) esti- witness testified that he saw James at a gas station mated that between 3 and 5 percent were innocent. near the time the crime occurred and gave him a ride Gross (2008) also found that 2.5 percent of all pris- to work. Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing oners sentenced to death between 1973 and 1989 to his innocence, James was convicted of rape and were eventually exonerated. According to the sentenced to life in prison. He spent almost 30 years Bureau of Justice Statistics (Carson and Golinelli, in prison before DNA evidence excluded James as the 2013), approximately 1.57 million prisoners were perpetrator and he was exonerated. under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities at year-end 2012. If as few as 1 Henry James’ case is not an isolated event in the percent are innocent (a low estimate in light of the criminal justice system, and the hundreds of aforementioned studies), that would mean 15,700 wrongly convicted individuals released from prison innocent men and women are being kept behind over the past 20 years provide indisputable proof bars. Regardless of how many there are, prevent- that wrongful convictions can and do occur. Since ing additional cases should be a public safety and 1989, there have been over 1,300 exonerations in the justice priority. United States — more than 300 through newly discovered DNA evidence (Innocence Project, 2014a) The wrongly convicted are not a homogeneous and about 1,000 additional exonerations through group. A 2012 study at Michigan Law School and other types of evidence (National Registry of Northwestern Law School (Gross and Shaffer, 2012) Exonerations, 2014). This number is not insignifi- reviewed 873 exonerations and found that a major- cant; however, what is even more important is that ity of the exonerees were men, 50 percent were black, these are only the number of wrongly convicted 38 percent were white, 11 percent were Hispanic persons that we know about. Because of lim- and 2 percent were Native American or Asian. The ited available evidence, a large backlog of actual exonerations studied span the United States, with innocence cases, and a restricted number of indi- large concentrations in Illinois, New York, Texas viduals who can allocate sufficient time to look into and California. This distribution is likely shaped these claims, we are discovering and examining by the uneven level of effort across states to exam- only some of the wrongful convictions. As work ine wrongful convictions as well as differences in underlying rates of crime and convictions that 4 | New Perspectives in Policing might distinguish more urban states. The types an organizational accident model and testing ini- of crimes that individuals are falsely accused of tial assumptions in an investigation. Finally, we committing also vary. Most of the exonerations provide suggestions on how police can assist in involve rape and murder cases, although about 20 post-conviction investigations. percent involve robberies or other crimes (Gross and Shaffer, 2012). Adopting these recommendations and developing a more rigorous process for investigations will Although exonerees are diverse in many respects provide several benefits. First, they will minimize and their individual stories need to be high- the number of innocent individuals who are lighted, we have learned much from studying the wrongly convicted. Second, as many wrongful collection of cases as a whole. Misidentification conviction cases illustrate, when an individual is by eyewitnesses, false confessions, erroneous erroneously convicted of a crime, the true perpe- scientific evidence, untrue informant testimony, trator often goes unpunished and commits future overzealous prosecution, inadequate defense and crimes (Acker, 2013). Out of the 132 actual perpe- sometimes intentional misconduct contribute to trators who were identified in the first 300 DNA the conviction of the innocent. We believe that exoneration cases, 65 had committed 137 addi- most actors in the criminal justice system do tional violent crimes — 74 rapes, 33 murders and their jobs with integrity and have every interest in 30 other violent crimes (Innocence Project, 2013). protecting the innocent. However, it is clear that inadvertent errors committed by any (and all) Moreover, it is well known that the length of time individuals in the system eventually and directly it takes to conduct an investigation and the prob- contribute to wrongful convictions. ability of finding the perpetrator are inversely correlated: the longer the actual perpetrator goes In recent years, research has led to several rec- undetected, the less likely it becomes he or she ommendations that can serve as checks on the will ever be identified and apprehended. Thus, system to prevent unnecessary miscues before police will derive a public safety advantage from an individual is falsely accused and to correct adopting these recommendations, as they will wrongs in the event they do occur. This paper reduce the likelihood of being distracted from focuses on the following questions: What poli- pursuing the real perpetrator because of mis- cies should police departments adopt to help leading evidence and instead will help identify prevent wrongful convictions, and how can the actual perpetrator more quickly during the police best assist in post-conviction investiga- initial investigation. tions? Specifically, we identify recommended procedures for eyewitness identification, record- We acknowledge that some of these recommen- ing of interrogations, informant testimony, and dations will be challenging to implement and will evidence storage and preservation. We then look need the entire community’s support to be fully at the importance of learning from error through effective. We also acknowledge that wrongful Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 5 convictions occur as a result of systemwide errors, do not (a concept psychologists call “confirma- not simply mistakes by police officers. However, tory bias”). Furthermore, scholars have shown to stand by and do nothing at any level of the that people are likely to hold fast to their own criminal justice system is a dereliction of respon- theories, even in the face of contradictory evi- sibility and leadership. dence (Simon, 2012). We firmly believe that police departments are It is common for people to experience this kind the best advocates to catalyze this kind of change, of “belief perseverance,” and it is often difficult for and our reasoning is twofold. First, because they them to realize their beliefs may be in error (Dror are at the front end of the criminal justice process, and Fraser-Mackenzie, 2009). This can happen police officers are the initial point of contact in at any stage of the criminal justice process — an investigation, and their work affects the entire from forensic scientists interpreting data in a outcome of the case. If one piece of evidence is manner consistent with law enforcement theo- contaminated, it can often prejudice and con- ries of guilt to prosecutors being so convinced of taminate other evidence (this is known as the a defendant’s guilt that they neglect to focus on “snowball biasing effect,” which is discussed in factors that contradict their theories — and it is more detail in section II). Second, years of study clear that every individual, regardless of his or and research have produced highly specific, sci- her level of responsibility or experience, is sus- entifically based reforms to implement at the ceptible to this phenomenon. The likelihood of a police level. Best practices for other stages in the wrongful conviction is further heightened by the criminal justice system have not yet been empiri- volume of arrests and the burden placed on the cally tested and determined. Thus, it is logical for criminal justice system as a whole. As it is cur- these reforms and recommendations to be intro- rently constructed, the criminal justice system duced to the criminal justice system at the police does not favor preventing or identifying wrongful level. convictions. II. The Psychology Behind Cognitive Biases and Their Relationship to Wrongful Convictions Humans are constantly flooded with sensory Cognitive scientists have greatly helped us under- everything quickly and efficiently (Findley and stand wrongful convictions. It is now universal Scott, 2006). To handle this overwhelming knowledge that human perception is not objec- amount of information, a host of shortcuts (heu- tive. Our perceptions are heavily influenced by ristics) have been developed that allow people previous experiences and events, and humans to make decisions rapidly without being over- tend to remember the factors that fit with their whelmed by unnecessary or redundant input.1 constructed mindset more clearly than those that Although these shortcuts are generally helpful information — we hear, read and see information from a variety of sources — and must process and effective strategies for synthesizing and 6 | New Perspectives in Policing processing complex information, they sometimes humans do not (and cannot) process information lead to faulty conclusions (Snook and Cullen, on a blank slate. Individuals interpret informa- 2009). This system of categorization and selective tion as a product of their beliefs, experiences, attention makes humans subject to error. expertise and understanding, a concept known as top-down processing. It is a critical function Tunnel vision, a heuristic-like model, is “the prod- because humans have limited processing capaci- uct of a variety of cognitive distortions that can ties, and top-down processing helps manage the impede accuracy in what we perceive and in how huge amount of input received by the brain; how- we interpret what we perceive” (Findley and Scott, ever, it can also cause error because people often 2006, p. 307). Although a confluence of cognitive do not realize they are combining new and old biases is involved in tunnel vision, confirmatory information (Dror, 2014). This lack of awareness, and hindsight biases play the most prominent along with a propensity to be overconfident about roles.2 Confirmatory bias is the tendency to seek one’s beliefs, can reinforce a premature conclu- information and evidence that bolster existing sion (Arkes et al., 1988; Findley and Scott, 2006). expectations and hypotheses (Findley and Scott, 2006). It is usually not driven by conscious or These cognitive biases are not limited to nov- explicit errors, occurs almost automatically, and ices and have been widely observed in experts is most likely to appear when evidence is ambig- in a variety of professions, including medicine,3 uous. In fact, research has shown that people journalism,4 negotiating5 and psychotherapy.6 easily hold onto weak ideas and that providing Dror explains that there is a “paradoxical nature hypothetical explanations for an idea will bol- of expertise, showing that with extraordinary ster one’s belief in its likelihood (Simon, 2012). abilities come vulnerabilities and pitfalls” (Dror, Once a belief is in place, people tend to distort 2011, p. 184). Experts perform tasks and solve new information to validate their expectations, problems differently, which leads to high per- increasing the value of confirming evidence and formance in most situations. To achieve such labeling disconfirming evidence as insignificant high performance, experts need to have well- or irrelevant. organized knowledge; make sense of complex, often ambiguous, signals and patterns; quickly Hindsight bias refers to the tendency to think that apply automaticity (reflexive skills that experts an eventual outcome was much more likely to can perform effortlessly); and perform challeng- occur than one originally expected (Findley and ing tasks that perplex novices (Dror, 2011). Experts Scott, 2006). Memory is malleable and is greatly also have highly trained information processing affected by subsequent perceptions and expe- mechanisms, with an acute ability to select the riences. As a belief becomes more articulated most pertinent information, group steps together and comprehensive (and thus more persua- into a single entity, and apply automaticity. sive), it affects an individual’s recollection of events (Stubbins and Stubbins, 2009). Moreover, Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 7 Ironically, these linchpins of expertise can lead prejudice and contaminate another line of evi- to a lack of flexibility and to error. “Chunking” dence. This is particularly relevant to police work information makes the components less avail- because it is usually the first point of contact in able, if not inaccessible altogether, and fine-tuned the criminal justice system and all later stages selective attention also leads to the filtering of feed off the information gathered in a police potentially important information. For example, investigation (Findley and Scott, 2006). Although “chess experts are indeed better than novices in these cognitive biases, to a certain degree, are encoding and remembering board positions, but inevitable in any case investigation, research this is limited only to realistic board positions. has shown that several best practices can help Experts are no better, and are even worse than prevent wrongful convictions and correct wrongs. novices, in board positions in which constituting individual pieces are placed at random” (Dror, 2011, p. 181). III. What Police Can Do To Help Minimize the Likelihood of a Wrongful Conviction Thus, we can expect that experts in the crimi- Twenty years of study have helped identify the nal justice system are as susceptible as experts leading factors that contribute to wrongful in other fields to these cognitive biases. For convictions — eyewitness misidentification, false example, Dror and Hampikian (2011) found confessions, untruthful informants, unvalidated that a forensic scientist’s interpretation of DNA or improper forensic science, government mis- mixtures can be biased by knowledge of spe- conduct and ineffective legal representation. cific circumstances of a criminal case. Indeed, Research has revealed changes in practice that the seminal report on forensic sciences in the can decrease the likelihood of any one of these United States by the Committee on Identifying errors recurring or at least increase the likelihood the Needs of Forensic Sciences Community et that the error will be discovered before convic- al. (2009) explicitly acknowledges the suscepti- tion (Committee on Identifying the Needs of bility of bias in the forensic evidence discipline. Forensic Sciences Community et al., 2009; Drizin This fallibility plagues all the actors in the justice and Leo, 2004; Kassin, Bogart, and Kerner, 2012; system: defense attorneys, for instance, who only Natapoff, 2006; Steblay et al., 2001; Wells et al., litigate certain types of cases are prone to form 1998; Wogalter, Marwitz, and Leonard, 1992). generalizations based on previous experiences that hamper their ability to envision alternate We call on police leaders to (1) adopt best prac- possibilities (Rand, 2003). tices that can reduce wrongful convictions and lead to the correct perpetrator, (2) embrace a Tunnel vision is problematic in the criminal culture of learning from error that works to justice system especially because of what Dror understand when errors or near misses occur, and (2014) refers to as the “biasing snowball effect,” (3) develop investigative practices that continuously where knowing one piece of evidence can often 8 | New Perspectives in Policing challenge the unwarranted assumption — best practices have been developed to manage shared by witnesses, investigators and attorneys system variables (Innocence Project, 2014b). — that we are always right. First, numerous studies show that when lineup A. Adopt Best Practices Known To Reduce the Likelihood of Wrongful Convictions administrators know who the suspect is, they In the sections below, we review specific steps In a study comparing the effects of blind and in the justice process and present several best non-blind administration, Canter, Hammond, practices in the following areas: eyewitness and Youngs (2013) found that the target photo identification, interrogation, informant proce- was selected more than twice as often with an dures, and evidence preservation and storage. “informed administrator” than with a “blind These recommendations will reduce errors and administrator.” Thus, implementing blind improve the administration of justice. administration — when the officer administering can have a strong biasing effect on eyewitnesses. the lineup is unaware of who the suspect is — can 1. Eyewitness Identification significantly reduce the likelihood of misidentifi- Eyewitness misidentification played a role in cation (Haw and Fisher, 2004; Phillips et al., 1999; almost 40 percent of the 1,281 overturned con- Wells et al., 1998). victions reported by the National Registry of Exonerations (2014) and close to 75 percent of the first 250 DNA exonerations (Garrett, 2011). Research illustrates that it continues to be a major factor, contributing to 73 percent of the current 312 DNA exonerations (Innocence Project, 2014b). Since the landmark National Institute of Justice study on eyewitness identification was published almost 15 years ago (Technical Working Group for Eyewitness Evidence, 1999), scholars have conducted extensive additional research showing that eyewitnesses are prone to error. Two main categories of factors interfere with eyewitness accuracy — estimator variables (e.g., lighting, presence of a weapon, degree of stress) and system variables (the ways that police retrieve and record witness memory). Although police officers have no control over estimator variables, several Second, eyewitnesses tend to use relative judgments in making identifications, where they compare lineup members to each other to decide which one most resembles their memory of the perpetrator. The major issue with relative judgments in eyewitness lineups is that one lineup member will always look more like the perpetrator than other members. This is of particular concern when the actual perpetrator is not included in the lineup, making the innocent suspect who most looks like the perpetrator more susceptible to selection (Wells, Steblay, and Dysart, 2011). Sequential rather than simultaneous presentation of lineups decreases the rate at which innocent people are selected by limiting the comparison of photos that eyewitnesses are prone to make in a simultaneous presentation (Cutler and Penrod, 1988; Lindsay and Wells, 1985; Steblay et al., 2001). Organizations such as the Innocence Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 9 Project (2014d) and the International Association often than expected by chance. If lineups were of Chiefs of Police (IACP) (2010) also support the fair, the mock witnesses would have identified the use of blind-sequential lineup presentations. suspect 11 percent of the time (evenly distributed among the nine individuals in the lineup), yet Bradfield, Wells, and Olson (2002) show that eye- the suspect was identified 25 percent of the time witnesses who were given confirmatory feedback (Valentine and Heaton, 1999). on their identification inflated their recollections of the confidence they felt in their selections. This To minimize biased lineups, fillers should be study and others support the best practice that selected based on a two-part procedure. First, eyewitnesses provide a statement on their level filler picks should match critical details of the of confidence in the identification at the time witness’s description of the perpetrator. This the identification is made, when the possibility will lessen the chance that an innocent suspect of feedback and memory alterations is minimal. looks most like the perpetrator. Second, filler Furthermore, research indicates that having wit- picks should not look too different from the sus- nesses instantly answer questions about certainty pect to ensure that the suspect does not stand has a partially prophylactic effect against future out (Koehnken, Malpass, and Wogalter, 1996). feedback effects (Quinlivan et al., 2009), and in Finally, all lineups should be properly recorded the event that feedback does occur, the state- and documented to allow for review of the lineup ments can be used to temper jurors’ evaluations in the event that it was improperly conducted of the eyewitness identification (Bradfield and (International Association of Chiefs of Police, McQuiston, 2004). 2010; Innocence Project, 2014b). Lineup composition is crucial for a fair lineup, as According to public information requests in nine a biased lineup can cause an innocent suspect states conducted by the Innocence Project and to stand out and thus increase the likelihood of affiliated entities, many jurisdictions have imple- a false identification (Wogalter, Marwitz, and mented blind-sequential procedures voluntarily Leonard, 1992). In a fair lineup, mock witnesses’ through the adoption of an official policy. These selections should be evenly distributed over all jurisdictions include but are not limited to Santa of the lineup members, which is consistent with Clara, California; Monterey, California; Denver, random chance. If mock witnesses focus on or Colorado; Palm Beach County, Florida; Baltimore, choose one lineup member above others, this Maryland; Hyattsville, Maryland; Norwood, demonstrates a biased lineup. In one study that Massachusetts; Hennepin County, Minnesota; used archival records to examine the fairness of Colstrip, Montana; North Charleston, South live lineups conducted in actual cases, research- Carolina; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Six states ers found that mock witnesses, who had never have also adopted both blind and sequential seen the suspect before and had only heard a administration, and five other states have rec- description, identified the suspect 2.2 times more ommended the double-blind reform package and 10 | New Perspectives in Policing incorporated it into police training (Innocence Project, 2014d). Yet many departments are reluc- Folder Shuffle Method indicates there are fewer misidentifications using Many police departments do not have enough independent administrators available to perform the number of blind lineups that are needed. This problem can be remedied by following folder shuffle procedures: a sequential lineup presentation. They argue that 1. tant to adopt these procedures. That reluctance seems to stem largely from three concerns. First, many investigators question the research that the research has been conducted in a laboratory environment and may not apply in the field. Second, they contend that blind administration is an operational problem because it is difficult to find someone who can act as a blind administrator. Third, investigators feel that turning over a victim or witness to someone he or she is not familiar with would hinder the lineup process. The first of these concerns has been addressed both in the laboratory and in a recent randomized trial field study in four sites that showed sequential lineups with blind administration produced significantly fewer filler picks than the Place the suspect’s and five filler photos in individual folders. 2. Shuffle the folders before giving them to the witness and place four empty folders at the bottom of the pile (you do not want the witness to know when he/she is viewing the last photo, because witnesses may feel an increased need to make an identification if they believe they are viewing the last photo). 3. The officer administrating the array should position himself or herself so he or she cannot see inside the folders as the witness is reviewing them. This method will achieve the same effect as having an independent blind administrator (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2010; Office of the Attorney General, State of Wisconsin, 2010). blind simultaneous procedure (11 and 18 percent, respectively). This reduction in filler picks was with a training key, to guide police departments not associated with a reduction in suspect picks, in implementing these practices (International with approximately one-quarter of witnesses Association of Chiefs of Police, 2010).7 Many choosing a suspect using both procedures (Wells, departments have adopted policies to address Steblay, and Dysart, in press). This peer-reviewed the concerns about staffing and witness/victim study, the only one of its kind, reinforced in the comfort. Despite initial resistance, experience field what has been known in the laboratory for has proved that implementation is simpler than 30 years and has contributed to the increase in expected, and the jurisdictions that adopt them police agencies adopting the recommended poli- prefer the new procedures. cies. The experiences of departments that have implemented these practices also illustrate that 2. Interrogation Procedures the perceived obstacles are not serious areas Another major contributing cause of wrong- of concern (Police Executive Research Forum, ful convictions is false confessions — innocent 2013). The IACP developed a model policy, along defendants made outright confessions or pled guilty in almost 16 percent of exoneration cases, Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 11 and innocent individuals incriminated them- suggests that people who are falsely accused tend selves in some way in more than 25 percent of to believe that justice will prevail and that their DNA exonerations (Gross and Shaffer, 2012; innocence will become transparent to investiga- Innocence Project, 2014c). Innocent people con- tors. As a result, they often cooperate fully with fess for myriad reasons, among them duress, police, waiving their rights to silence and lawyers ignorance of the law, and intoxication. Juveniles and speaking freely to defend themselves. In a and people with mental disabilities are consid- study of mock criminals and innocent individu- ered vulnerable populations at an increased risk als, the mock criminals varied the amount they for falsely confessing. Drizin and Leo (2004) ana- disclosed, but the innocent individuals were lyzed 125 cases of proven false confessions and uniformly forthcoming (Kassin, 2005). Another found that 63 percent were younger than age 25 study compared the willingness of innocent and 32 percent were younger than age 18. They individuals to waive their rights and submit to also found that 22 percent were mentally chal- questioning to that of guilty individuals; the lenged and 10 percent had a diagnosed mental rates were 81 percent and 36 percent, respectively illness. Although these populations may be the (Kassin and Norwick, 2004). most vulnerable, the exonerations include many fully competent adults who confessed to crimes Finally, because the decision to interrogate a they did not commit. suspect is based on a preliminary suspicion of that individual, there can be an inherent bias Several core principles of psychology play a role during interrogations (known as “investiga- in false confessions (Kassin, Bogart, and Kerner, tor bias”). This can lead to a propensity to view 2012; Meissner and Russano, 2003). First, “peo- suspects as guilty and can inflate officers’ con- ple make choices that they think will maximize fidence in their ability to detect deceit (Simon, their well-being given the constraints they face, 2012). For example, research shows that people making the best of the situation they are in,” who were led to believe that a truthful individual (Kassin et al., 2010, p. 15). Second, people tend to was being untruthful overestimated the amount view immediate outcomes more favorably than of gaze aversion (an action typically associated delayed outcomes and are impulsive in their with lying) the individual had displayed during decision-making (Kassin et al., 2010). Malleability the interrogation (Levine, Asad, and Park, 2006). of memory and the ability to manipulate an Kassin and colleagues (2007) surveyed 631 police individual’s perception of the past, which were investigators, who estimated they were accurate discussed in section II, are also heightened dur- at truth and lie detection 77 percent of the time ing stressful situations (Drizin and Leo, 2004; although the average accuracy rate is actually Kassin and Kiechel, 1996; Leo and Ofshe, 1998). about 54 percent, which is essentially no better than a random guess. Ironically, innocence itself may put innocent individuals at risk of falsely confessing. Research 12 | New Perspectives in Policing Recording custodial interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights through the conclusion of the interrogation, is one way to reduce the likelihood that a false confession will go undetected through a criminal prosecution (Drizin and Leo, 2004; Kassin, Bogart, and Kerner, 2012). If there is an accurate record of exactly who said what first, a review of the interrogation will confirm whether the suspect provided details that “only the true perpetrator could know” or whether the interrogator inadvertently introduced those facts. It creates a record of all the inconsistent statements made that support the claim that the confession was not reliable. A recording also has the benefit of preventing false claims of torture or undue coercion. Seventeen states, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, and Oregon; the District of Columbia; and almost 1,000 law enforcement agencies, many in large cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and St. Petersburg, now record the entire custodial interrogation in at least some categories of felonies (Sullivan, 2014). National organizations, including the IACP and the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, have endorsed the practice. Police agencies face challenges in implementing video recording of interrogations. They must find the money in tight budgets to purchase and install the equipment needed to implement this best practice and must modify interview rooms to obtain clear images and sound. Policies and procedures must be developed, and officers must be trained. The greatest challenge is introducing a change that some will resist; however, with Interview With William Brooks William G. Brooks III, Chief of the Norwood, Massachusetts, Police Department, is a staunch advocate for eyewitness identification best practices and recording of interrogations. He says about both policies: “As resistant as I was to them at first, it was really a breeze. It just works. It’s one of the best things we’ve done.” The Norwood Police Department began recording interrogations in 2004. Although there was initial concern about individuals being unwilling to talk, the department has seen no additional resistance from individuals now that they are being recorded. Chief Brooks advises discreetly setting up a camera with a hidden microphone so there is not a constant reminder of the recording. He believes the benefits of recording interrogations are significant, including a reduction in the time detectives spend testifying about the interview procedures and no longer needing to explain to the jury why police did not record the interrogation. The Norwood Police Department implemented the recommended eyewitness identification practices after Chief Brooks attended a training hosted by the District Attorney’s office that promoted the practices. The adoption of the practices was seamless and the advantages were immense, especially at trial. Chief Brooks has noticed that because the lineup procedures now have a scientific basis, detectives are more professional on the witness stand, and there has been little cross-examination about the procedures. According to Chief Brooks, the key to successfully adopting these best practices is the training. “From the police end, there’s so much to know and if you don’t tell the police the reason behind it, they won’t get it and they resist it. In the departments that have the policy and have done the training, there is really no resistance… . Everywhere I go, they are always on board.” Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 13 proper training and policies, experience has or make the drug purchases that provide the shown that police departments willingly comply evidence to support an arrest and prosecution. with and benefit from the adoption of interroga- Police and prosecutors also use jailhouse infor- tion recordings. Sullivan (2004) spoke with 238 mants to obtain information from suspects in police agencies in 38 states and found that “vir- custody to strengthen their case. tually every officer with whom we spoke, having given custodial recordings a try, was enthusias- The use of jailhouse informants also plays an tically in favor of the practice” (Sullivan, 2004, important role in wrongful convictions. A study p. 6). Officers noted several benefits to record- by the Center on Wrongful Convictions (2004) ing, including a major decrease in the number found that incentivized testimony was a lead- of defense motions to suppress statements and ing factor in 45.9 percent of 111 capital wrongful confessions and increased capacity to focus on convictions since the 1970s. In more than 15 per- the suspect rather than taking copious notes cent of convictions overturned by DNA testing, during the interview, and they encountered no an informant testified against the defendant at issues affecting their ability to obtain confessions the original trial (Innocence Project, 2014e). (Sullivan, 2004). The IACP also has beneficial Statements made by informants can often be the training keys to help police agencies institute main piece of evidence against a defendant, and electronic recording of custodial interrogations in some cases it is the only evidence. Although (International Association of Chiefs of Police, we understand the value to police in using infor- 2004). mants to obtain evidence, it is apparent that measures should be taken to reduce the risk that 3. Informant Practices incentivized statements may not be truthful and Informants, or those who provide evidence in may contribute to more wrongful convictions. expectation of some benefit from police or prosecutors (e.g., monetary reward, release from prison, or leniency in their own cases), have a significant impact in many police investigations and are particularly prominent in drug investigations. The overwhelming majority of drug cases are made through the use of informants who are involved in or on the fringes of the drug trade. According to federal statistics, 60 percent of drug defendants cooperate with prosecutors in some way in exchange for a reduction in their sentence or a dismissal of charges (Natapoff, 2006). In these situations, informants identify the dealer To ensure informants are managed properly, the IACP recommends requiring that officers complete an Initial Suitability Report for the potential informant. The report includes information about the individual’s relationship with the suspect, the potential informant’s possible motivations, his or her criminal history and the individual’s ability to gain information (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2008). Understanding and monitoring the motivations of informants is vital to reducing the likelihood of a wrongful conviction. 14 | New Perspectives in Policing In Washington, D.C., changes were recently made informants are when they are considering using so that the defense is now given information that one for a case. might impeach informant testimony at least two weeks before trial; previously the information 4. Evidence Storage and Preservation was provided only hours or days before trial (Hsu In recent decades, it has become clear that and Alexander, 2013). California passed legisla- evidence gathered at crime scenes can have a tion in 2011 requiring prosecutors to corroborate substantial impact on the determination of inno- information and incriminating statements pro- cence. In a preliminary review of closed cases vided by jailhouse informants by presenting with claims of innocence over a 10-year period, forensic evidence or uncompromised testimony the Innocence Project (2013) found that 32 per- (Williams, 2011). cent were closed because evidence had been lost or destroyed. For example, evidence handling All case-relevant discussions with informants played a key role in the 1986 murder conviction should be electronically recorded, and copies of Paul House. Blood on House’s jeans was found of the recordings should be given to the defense. to have matched the victim’s, but testing in 2008 Because most of these conversations occur in a determined that the blood had actually come custodial setting, this would not be a major bur- from a post-autopsy sample. House’s jeans and a den for police departments, especially in light test tube of blood had been shipped in the same of the increased use of recording interrogations container to the FBI for analysis, and most of the (Center on Wrongful Convictions, 2004). Finally, blood was missing from the tube when it arrived, departments should create informant files and suggesting it had been spilled (Balko, 2011). maintain detailed records of all interactions with their informants in a central database, and they With increasingly advanced evidence-testing should have a process for objectively evaluating methods, the selection of items that can be used the investigations. Keeping track of informants in the conviction or exoneration of an individual who are later determined to have offered inac- is growing exponentially. Thus, correct and care- curate information can minimize the likelihood ful evidence handling, tracking and storage are that law enforcement will use them again. For crucial for establishing innocence both before example, the FBI maintains records on infor- and after conviction; preservation is also key mants’ value to investigations by aggregating to post-conviction investigations.8 Individuals their “statistical accomplishments” and assess- involved in the intake, storage or disposition of ing their credibility (Natapoff, 2009). Not only will biological evidence should consider taking online, this decrease the number of wrongful convictions in-person or other forms of guided instruction on due to unreliable informants, it will also benefit evidence management. police to have an educated, data-driven understanding of how useful and trustworthy potential The National Institute of Standards and Technolog y Technical Work ing Group on Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 15 Biological Evidence Preservation (2013) recog- of evidence are best stored (Technical Working nizes the importance of biological evidence for Group on Biological Evidence Preservation, 2013). all parties and at all stages in the criminal jus- Although there are several ways to improve the tice system, and it advocates for the long-term efficiency of tracking and retrieving evidence, the retention of evidence in several crime categories. Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Specifically, it recommends the following: Department has developed a well-organized cataloging system that barcodes evidence dating Biological evidence should be preserved back to 1978 (Moffeit and Greene, 2007). through, at a minimum, the period of incarceration in the following crime Finally, departments should have clear guide- categories, as defined in NIBRS [National lines on chain-of-custody documentation that Incident-Based Repor t ing System identify “all persons who have had custody of Resource Guide], regardless of whether evidence and the places where that evidence or not a plea was obtained: homicides, has been kept in chronological order from col- sexual assault offenses, assaults, kid- lection to destruction” (Technical Working Group napping/abductions, and robberies on Biological Evidence Preservation, 2013, p. 25). (Technical Working Group on Biological This is especially important because failure to Evidence Preservation, 2013, p. 5). maintain proper documentation of evidence handling may result in evidence being inadmissible. Police departments in jurisdictions such as Dallas County, Texas, which have had significantly more exonerations than others, have been systemati- B. Learn From Error Using an Organizational Accident Model cally saving evidence from rapes, murders and Implementing an organizational accident model other major crimes since the 1970s. It stores “tiny allows police departments to review errors as lab slides on at least a portion of biological evi- systemwide weaknesses instead of single-cause dence collected from all major cases over the mistakes. years. As a result, the department has flushed out culprits in decades-old crimes” (Moffeit and As noted earlier, research has identified a number Greene, 2007, p. 4). of factors that contribute to wrongful convictions and the best practices that can be implemented It is further recommended that police agencies to address these contributing factors. Although develop written protocols for standardizing these policies are certain to help reduce wrong- evidence packaging and tracking in property ful convictions that might have involved rooms. These policies should include packaging eyewitnesses, false confessions, poor evidence directions with digital photos and brief narrative preservation or jailhouse informants, they will descriptions that highlight the approved meth- not address the systemwide failures that contrib- ods and a discussion on how various categories ute to wrongful convictions. 16 | New Perspectives in Policing Currently, many police departments review these individual mistakes to lead to tragedies wrongful convictions through a single-cause, (Doyle, 2012; Shane, 2013). This type of review is a one-component review, where the focus of the forward-looking tool that considers these acci- search is to pinpoint the one mistake or “bad dents as a culmination of errors at several stages apple” that caused the wrongful conviction. The and treats mistakes as learning opportunities. underlying assumption in these assessments is that once the lying informant, eyewitness There are obstacles to creating and implementing misidentification or unethical prosecutor is an organizational accident model for the review uncovered and remedied, the system will once of wrongful convictions and near misses. One again be efficient. However, this type of review formidable obstacle is that the criminal justice is flawed because it overlooks the multitude of system is not a true system — it is an intercon- less obvious errors that should be corrected to nected group of individual entities that come enhance the accuracy of the system as a whole together to play specific roles in holding individu- (Doyle, 2012; Shane, 2013). What is needed is an als accountable for violations of the law. Winning, approach to reviewing wrongful convictions (and rather than a search for truth and justice, has near misses) that not only focuses on the major become a leading objective. Bringing police, factors but also looks at the fundamental etiology prosecutors, defenders and the courts together to of wrongful convictions. determine what went wrong is a challenge. One must overcome the tendency to assign blame even We recommend that police agencies develop a though it is clear that the responsibility for wrong- review system that avoids simply blaming indi- ful convictions cuts across all parts of the system. viduals and concentrates on understanding the Civil liability is also a significant obstacle — organizational factors that contribute to errors. how can all of the stakeholders come together in This type of organizational accident model does a culture where accountability for errors often not ask why the individual erred but asks what comes in the form of institutional or individual structural issues played a role in the individual’s financial judgments? actions that triggered the error. Accidents are assumed to take place because of one or more Review mechanisms have been established that levels of organizational failure: organizational may help answer that question and serve as a influences, unsafe supervision, preconditions guide to developing a process for wrongful con- for unsafe acts and the unsafe acts themselves. viction and near-miss assessment. Child fatality The model accepts that mistakes are inevitable review teams exist in all 50 states and the District in a human-dominated system and that no sin- of Columbia (Langstaff and Sleeper, 2001), and gle error independently is sufficient to cause a elder abuse and domestic violence fatality review significant accident. It shifts the focus to how teams have also been established in many com- inherent system weaknesses converge with munities across America (National Domestic Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 17 Violence Fatality Review Initiative, 2013; Stigal, We believe that this model does not need to 2005). These teams bring together police (lead- be implemented immediately at all levels of ership and labor), prosecutors, social services, the criminal justice system and that police mental health workers, coroners, public health departments are in the best position to be the officials and others to examine fatalities. They forerunners for this kind of change. Through search for the causes of these deaths and aim to police leadership, all stakeholders (e.g., defenders, implement policies or procedures that will help prosecutors, forensic scientists) will eventually prevent similar deaths in the future. Their success become involved, and a new element of profes- depends on creating an environment where there sionalism within the criminal justice system will can be honest dialogue about system flaws and be created. approaches for fixing them. The discussions are confidential, and members are prohibited from Although hurdles must be overcome to establish disclosing them outside the team (Stigal, 2005). a systematic process for wrongful conviction Some states, such as California, have laws that review, it is essential that it be done. As Shane support this confidentiality and protect oral and (2013, p. 3) states: written communications from discovery (Stigal, 2005). In reality, even the best decisions are constrained by organizational policies, The field of health care also illustrates opportuni- personal preparedness and situational ties for learning from error and has developed a circumstances beyond the individual’s comprehensive approach to reviewing mistakes. control. So, punishing the individual has In one examination of a wrong-patient surgery, limited impact; there is symbolic value, the review team found at least 17 errors, ranging but that does little to correct the under- from the patient’s face being draped so physi- lying problem, shape a culture of safety cians could not see it to poor communication and develop organizational learning and between doctors and nurses. Most critically, the personal mastery. review team concluded that no single error could have caused the wrong-patient surgery. Instead, the combination of all of these mistakes resulted in this major error (Chassin and Becher, 2002). Medical practitioners realized that viewing error as a failure of character was unproductive and left latent system weaknesses uninvestigated. Instead, focusing on the error review in a nonblaming, systems-oriented way would lead to much more useful information. Thus, while we implore police leaders to adopt the best practices described in section III.A of this paper, we also call on these leaders to help move the system toward one that continuously learns from error and seeks truth, better outcomes and continual system improvement. C. Test Initial Assumptions Using the knowledge acquired from wrongful conviction and near-miss reviews, police can 18 | New Perspectives in Policing also develop new ways to test initial assumptions not require a lot of time and serve very important about a case or a suspect. As we have explained, purposes. Checklists are very useful in prosecu- belief perseverance is difficult to overcome. It is tors’ offices: they remind prosecutors of the steps exacerbated by the immense institutional pres- they should take to avoid error, they provide sures police experience to close cases. Thus, supervisors with a record of how an employee has creating checklists from scientifically based handled a case to date, and they increase the like- research, previous experiences, and investiga- lihood that prosecutors are basing their charging tions that serve as opportunities to question decisions on all available evidence. For example: initial reactions can help direct police away from an innocent individual and toward the real The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office perpetrator. Moreover, they provide a concrete has assembled a number of checklists record of how an officer handled a case and can designed to assist its prosecutors in be used as an example of good practice or to investigating and prosecuting their cases. uncover errors as the case progresses. These checklists did not, for the most part, create new practices. Instead, they repre- Dating back to the 1930s, the use of checklists has sented the formalization of existing office proven helpful in avoiding pitfalls for business policies and practices. However, even and industry in general. As technology improved, though the checklists did not contain the amount of data and information available to new policies, the Manhattan DA’s Office practitioners in all areas grew, and managing and wanted to emphasize the importance digesting it became more difficult. Checklists of distilling existing office policies into were developed to help practitioners perform checklists (Center on the Administration a long list of steps reproducibly and to manage of Criminal Law’s Conviction Integrity complex tasks. It is human nature to overlook Project, 2011, p. 18). some steps in the multitude of things we do daily. Gawande (2009) explains that in some of the most Checklists can be tailored to promote compli- complex professions, such as medicine and avia- ance in a variety of areas. The Manhattan District tion, checklists are essential, helping in memory Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit has devel- recall and defining, at a minimum, the necessary oped a questionnaire to help prosecutors identify steps needed to understand an overall process. potential areas in cases where exculpatory material might exist that needs to be disclosed. The Departments and offices within the criminal questionnaire is not a formal checklist — a pros- justice arena are already using checklists to rein- ecutor does not need to literally check a box for force best practices because they are low cost, do each type of evidence that does or does not exist. Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 19 Instead, the questionnaire provides flexibility programs designed in the early 1960s used a to prosecutors in assessing their cases while daily checklist to evaluate performance and to still serving the purpose of a standard checklist ensure trainees practiced skills important to their (Center on the Administration of Criminal Law’s success (Kaminsky, 2000). Police have also used Conviction Integrity Project, 2011). checklists in domestic violence, homicide, assault and property crime investigations (Gerberth, The police have a long history of using check- 2013; Governor’s Commission on Domestic and lists in a number of areas. Officer field training Sexual Violence, 2012; Greenberg, 2010; Sadusky, Case Example: Douglas Warney On January 3, 1996, the police discovered William Beason’s body in his bedroom. Beason had been stabbed to death in the neck and chest. They also found a bloodstained knife, towel and tissues in the bathroom hamper. On the same day the media publicized the details of the murder, Douglas Warney called the police to discuss information he claimed to have about the homicide. Warney is cognitively impaired and has a recorded IQ of 68. He knew the victim casually, having done housework for him several times in prior years. Warney was taken in for an interrogation, where police obtained a signed confession stating that he had killed Beason alone. Before the trial, biological evidence from the crime scene was analyzed. Testing on the towel and tissue found blood that did not come from either Warney or the victim. Nevertheless, in February 1997, Warney was convicted of seconddegree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. In 2004, the Innocence Project accepted Warney’s case, and DNA testing of evidence was issued. The results were entered into the New York State DNA databank of convicted felons, and the profile from the evidence matched an inmate who was already serving a life sentence for murder. Warney’s conviction was vacated in 2006, and he was released from prison. Mistakes occurred at all levels of the criminal justice process, but we will limit our review to police errors. First, police became focused on Warney as a primary suspect too quickly because of his suggestion that he had information about the murder. Warney had made similar calls to the police before that had not been credible, and he had recently been admitted to a psychiatric ward. Investigators should have asked questions that would have shed light on all possibilities as to why Warney called the police. These questions might have revolved around whether police had exhausted all other possible explanations for Warney’s behavior and whether Warney had any other motives for calling about the crime. Second, Warney’s account of the crime changed several times, and his alleged confession was full of inconsistencies. Furthermore, it is important that the mental state and capabilities of an individual be considered when deciding if and how to interrogate someone, and research indicates that an interrogation that lasts more than four hours can increase the risk of an individual falsely confessing (Kassin et al., 2010). Warney was interrogated for 12 hours. Detectives would have benefitted from considering whether there were any factors that put Warney at an increased risk of falsely confessing. Finally, when testing on the towel and tissue showed that the blood could not have come from either Warney or the victim, little was done to look into alternative explanations. After Warney was arrested, police did not explore any other possible suspects even though there were individuals who could have been questioned. If detectives had investigated other potential leads, this may have helped offset the effects of tunnel vision and the police’s sole focus on Warney after his alleged confession (Innocence Project, 2007). 20 | New Perspectives in Policing 2010). Sidebottom, Tilley, and Eck (2012) believe also as a catalyst to test their initial assumptions checklists can play an important role in problem- about the direction of a case or a specific suspect oriented policing: during the initial investigation. The sidebar on page 19 presents a case example that uses this We see checklists as supplementing the strategy and offers sample questions that could numerous strategies already in place to have been asked and that may have helped law help manage the complexity involved in enforcement identify the correct perpetrator doing problem-oriented policing, not to instead of the innocent individual. be worked through slavishly but to act as an aide-memoir to ensure that actions that research evidence suggests is important are considered and not forgotten. Police departments could also profit greatly from the use of checklists in areas such as eyewitness identification, interrogations, evidence collection and laboratory controls. Although police agencies are encouraged to improve these checklists, the objective is not to come up with an exhaustive list of questions. Doyle (2012) notes that as environments change and science advances, checklists will need to be continuously maintained, evaluated, monitored and perhaps replaced, and an overreliance on checklists can provide a false sense of security that everything in an investigation has been covered. Each case, no matter how similar it may seem to a previous case, is unique in some way, and boiling investigations down to a checklist-type system may engender tunnel vision. Checklists are not a panacea, but when properly used they minimize the potential for overlooking important steps in the investigative process. Thus, it is critical that police officers use checklists not only as a framework for investigation but IV. Facilitating and Assisting Investigations of Post-Conviction Claims of Innocence Adopting these recommendations will greatly reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions and decrease the number of perpetrators who are free to commit additional crimes. Yet some wrongful convictions are bound to continue — the burden on every individual in the criminal justice process is great, and human error is unavoidable. It is essential that police and prosecutors be able to question prior beliefs and be amenable to the possibility of error when they are approached by innocence organizations, convicted defendants or members of their departments who harbor lingering or newfound doubts about cases or convictions. Research indicates that this type of openness is increasing — in 2012, police or prosecutors initiated or cooperated in 54 percent of the 63 exonerations, whereas in the previous 24 years they cooperated in only 30 percent of the cases on average (National Registry of Exonerations, 2014). Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney Craig Watkins established the first conviction integrity unit in 2007 to review and reinvestigate claims Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 21 of innocence in collaboration with innocence information from the prosecutor or innocence organizations and defense attorneys. Other pros- advocates conducting the investigation. Policies ecutorial offices are creating similar units. Texas that spell out how officers are to investigate leads the nation with 114 exonerations between claims of innocence ensure that these cases are 1989 and 2012, with police or prosecutors playing handled consistently and appropriately. a major role in 53 of them (National Registry of Exonerations, 2014). Developing post-conviction units is a more ambitious undertaking, but they lead to enormous It is clear that police and prosecutors are becom- benefits. They not only help safeguard the pub- ing more engaged in these investigations, but lic, but they can also improve the accuracy of exactly how they should become involved is not the cases a department brings and can augment clear. What is the appropriate role for police in public confidence in the criminal justice system. investigating claims of innocence? Should they Similar to cold case units where police focus establish something similar to the conviction exclusively on unsolved crimes, post-conviction integrity unit or cold case squads that focus on units specialize in investigating cases where offi- unsolved homicides and sexual assaults? Should cers determine that the convicted individual may they create policies to guide their actions in be innocent. Although these judgments can be responding to information requests or when difficult to assess, police may bring cases to light officers discover someone might have been for a variety of reasons, including the emergence wrongfully convicted? of new evidence, a witness coming forward, or an officer believing something went wrong during We believe that at a minimum, police agencies an investigation after he or she reviews a case. should have written policies on how to react to Once police have identified possible cases, it is claims of innocence. Although practice var- important to involve advocates and counsel for ies from one jurisdiction to another, police the potentially innocent individual and to work are frequently the custodians of evidence or with the relevant members of the community to investigative files that may contain important ensure that the case is handled properly. information — in most states and many large cities, the crime laboratories where biological The following sidebar includes three case exam- evidence is stored and analyzed are under police ples in which individual police officers and entire control. In the course of their investigations, police departments were indispensable in the police also come across information that may post-conviction review process. These cases dem- raise questions about the guilt of someone con- onstrate the immense benefit of police support. victed of a crime. Most often, however, the police will become involved after receiving requests for 22 | New Perspectives in Policing Case Examples: Post-Conviction Review Exoneration of LaMonte Armstrong, with assistance from Detective Michael Matthews and the Greensboro Police Department. LaMonte Armstrong was convicted of a 1988 murder in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was based entirely on the testimony of an informant who then recanted. After looking at the case, Duke Law School’s Wrongful Conviction Clinic reached out to the Greensboro Police Department, which was open to listening to the concerns and revisiting the case. Greensboro Detective Michael Matthews and two law students reviewed the entire case file, which contained documentation that strongly suggested Armstrong’s innocence. Duke’s Wrongful Conviction Clinic filed a motion for a new trial, and Armstrong was soon exonerated when DNA evidence at the crime scene was retested and excluded him. The clinic, Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann and the Greensboro Police Department were all instrumental in Armstrong’s exoneration (Duke Law News, 2012). Exoneration of Glenn Tinney, with assistance from the Mansfield, Ohio, Police Department. Glenn Tinney confessed several times to a 1992 murder in Mansfield, Ohio; however, the multiple confessions were riddled with inconsistencies (he had also been diagnosed with several mental disorders, including schizophrenia, paranoia and depression) and the Mansfield Police Department was not convinced of his guilt. Nevertheless, he was still charged and convicted. In 2006, the Mansfield police brought the case to the Ohio Innocence Project. The Ohio Innocence Project was able to get Tinney’s guilty plea withdrawn through court hearings in which Mansfield police officers testified about their belief that Tinney was innocent. He was exonerated in 2013 after serving 21 years in prison (10TV.com, 2012). Exoneration of Jonathan Moore, with assistance from the Aurora, Illinois, Police Department. Jonathan Moore was convicted of a 2000 murder in Aurora, Illinois, and was sentenced to more than 50 years in prison. In April 2011, a confidential informant met with two Aurora detectives and said that someone other than Moore had committed the murder. Based on that information, police detectives pursued the new lead. Soon after, the Illinois Innocence Project (2012) became involved in the case; through collaboration with the police and state prosecutors, Moore’s conviction was vacated and he was exonerated in 2012 (Hanley, 2012). Conclusion Police will derive numerous benefits from adopting the recommendations that we have presented in this paper. First, as we have noted, the costs of wrongful conviction are substantial from both a justice and a public safety viewpoint. Every criminal justice official would argue that any rate of wrongful convictions is unacceptable, and that all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure that no innocent individuals are wrongly convicted. By the same token, public safety demands accuracy. When an innocent person is falsely convicted, the real perpetrator remains at large and can (and often does) commit future crimes. Reducing the likelihood of these events will inevitably bolster the public’s perception of law enforcement’s legitimacy. Second, a department t hat has scientif ically founded procedures in place promotes a systems-oriented approach to learning from error. Instead of searching for the one “bad apple,” it focuses on understanding the structural factors that contribute to errors. This strategy will improve investigations and encourage police departments to move beyond an unproductive culture of blame and toward a culture of continual improvement. Health care reformers realized a deep reservoir of useful information by focusing on the mistakes instead of the successes (Sparrow, Policing and Wrongful Convictions | 23 2008), and we believe this opportunity transfers best catalysts for this change throughout the to the criminal justice system. system. Finally, we believe that these recommendations Endnotes are exemplary opportunities for police to build partnerships within the criminal justice system. Although the criminal justice system is not a “system” in the traditional sense, it is clear that all stakeholders are connected and that a decision or action by one player will affect the others. Thus, it is vital for this community, including police, prosecutors, defenders, forensic scientists, judges and the numerous other actors, to work together and strive for the best quality of work. We have proposed that the following will greatly aid in preventing future harms: adoption of best practices and procedures, knowledge of existing or past problems in the system, and guidelines on how to be most effective in post-conviction investigations. These are continuously evolving improvements that require the support of the entire criminal justice system along with continued research. We fully acknowledge that police are only one part of the criminal justice system; however, we remain steadfast in the belief that they play a critical role because they are at the front end of the system and have a major impact on the rest of the process. Furthermore, police departments are the most visible segment of the criminal justice community and often bear the brunt of social criticism for system errors. Police not only have the most to gain from adopting best practices and a comprehensive system of recognizing error and working to minimize it, but they can also be the 1. Heuristics are problem-solving strategies that often, but not always, result in correct solutions. For example, when someone is about to cross a street, he or she most likely does not use complex mathematical or physics equations to calculate the distance or the speed of an oncoming car. Instead, when the person looks both ways and sees a car approaching, he or she will quickly form a sense of whether or not there is time to cross the street while the car is still a distance away. This use of visual cues and past experiences, which allows humans to make rapid judgments, is an example of a heuristic (Weinstein, 2002). 2. Simon (2012, pp. 36-39) describes five mechanisms of biased reasoning that are most applicable to law enforcement: (1) selective framing is the tendency to look for information that should be present if the hypothesis is true, (2) selective exposure is the tendency to selectively expose oneself to evidence that confirms one’s hypothesis while ignoring discordant evidence, (3) selective scrutiny is the tendency to apply strict standards of scrutiny to information that is incompatible with one’s hypothesis and lax standards to compatible information, (4) biased evaluation is the tendency to distort the evaluation of evidence based on one’s hypothesis, and (5) selective stopping is the tendency to cease inquiries after finding a sufficient amount of evidence to bolster one’s hypothesis. 24 | New Perspectives in Policing 3. A study on the influence of expertise on X-ray 8. The National Institute of Standards and image processing demonstrated that although Technolog y Technical Work ing Group on expert radiologists were better at detecting Biological Evidence Preservation recently pub- abnormal X-ray films, “recognition memory lished a manual that includes best practices in for normal X-ray films actually decreased with the handling, tracking and retention of evidence. radiological experience to a chance level” (Myles- The recommendations in this paper are derived Worsley, Johnston, and Simons, 1988, p. 556). in large part from this publication. For more information, refer to Technical Working Group 4. Donsbach (2004) studied the cognitive on Biological Evidence Preservation (2013). The processes at work during journalists’ news International Association for Property and decision-making and found they are based in Evidence also offers a wide range of materials, part on the need for social validation of percep- including professional standards and manuals, tions and the need to confirm existing beliefs. to assist law enforcement agencies in the proper 5. An experiment conducted with expert (those with more than 10 years of experience) and amateur negotiators showed that while the abilities of experts to make mutually beneficial trade-offs were better than those of amateurs, their abilities to recognize when they had compatible interests with the other party were relatively similar to those of amateurs (Thompson, 1990). handling of evidence. For example, Property and Evidence by the Book, 2nd ed., extensively addresses questions about property and evidence preservation and storage related to law enforcement (Latta and Bowers, 2011). 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Stephens is the retired Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He is the Executive Director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Special thanks to Elizabeth Janszky, who provided invaluable research and drafting assistance with this bulletin. Without her hard work, this bulletin would not have been possible. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice presorted standard postage & fees paid DOJ/NIJ Permit No. G–91 *NCJ~246328* Washington, DC 20531 Official Business Penalty for Private Use $300 MAILING LABEL AREA (5” x 2”) DO NOT PRINT THIS AREA (INK NOR VARNISH) Members of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Batts, Baltimore Police Department Chief Edward Flynn, Milwaukee Police Department Professor David Bayley, Distinguished Professor (Emeritus), School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent, New Jersey State Police Professor Anthony Braga, Senior Research Fellow, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; and Don M. Gottfredson Professor of EvidenceBased Criminology, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University Chief Jane Castor, Tampa Police Department Ms. Christine Cole (Facilitator), Executive Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University Commissioner Edward Davis, Boston Police Department (retired) Chief Michael Davis, Director, Public Safety Division, Northeastern University District Attorney George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Mr. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy Professor John H. Laub, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland, and former Director of the National Institute of Justice Chief Susan Manheimer, San Mateo Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Department Professor Tracey Meares, Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law, Yale Law School Dr. Bernard K. Melekian, Director, Office Mr. Ronald Davis, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, United States Department of Justice of Community Oriented Policing Services (retired), United States Department of Justice Ms. Madeline deLone, Executive Director, The Innocence Project Ms. Sue Rahr, Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission Dr. Richard Dudley, Clinical and Forensic Psychiatrist Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia Police Department Professor Greg Ridgeway, Associate Professor of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, and former Acting Director, National Institute of Justice Professor David Sklansky, Yosef Osheawich Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law Mr. Sean Smoot, Director and Chief Legal Counsel, Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois Professor Malcolm Sparrow, Professor of Practice of Public Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University Mr. Darrel Stephens, Executive Director, Major Cities Chiefs Association Mr. Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations Mr. Richard Van Houten, President, Fort Worth Police Officers Association Lieutenant Paul M. Weber, Los Angeles Police Department Professor David Weisburd, Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University; and Distinguished Professor, Department of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University Dr. Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum Learn more about the Executive Session at: www.NIJ.gov, keywords “Executive Session Policing” www.hks.harvard.edu, keywords “Executive Session Policing” NCJ 246328