False Witness 

Eyewitnesses often mistakenly accuse innocent people of committing crimes, yet most police agencies refuse to implement reforms that would limit false identifications.

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Defense Attorney Denton echoed this sentiment. He does not believe that AB 604 is a panacea, but is a step in the right direction. "Social science has come a long way in identifying the problems with eyewitness identification, and law enforcement has lagged behind those advances," he said. "This bill seeks to make up some of the gap."

Many civil rights lawyers and social scientists would like to make double-blind sequential lineups mandatory in California. However, inertia is a powerful force and many police agencies don't want to overhaul their long-standing practices based on lab studies that haven't been extensively tested in the real world.

Proponents of double-blind sequential lineups, however, often point to Santa Clara County's experience as proof that the procedure works. In 2002, all police agencies in the county implemented double-blind sequential lineups, and they have reported positive results ever since. "We are very pleased with the protocol, and I think our police chiefs are as well," said District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen. "This reform has worked well in the big departments and the small departments, in the urban departments and in the rural departments .... Everyone should want to do this because it is the best way to do things."

Editor's Note: The original version of this story mistakenly stated that the California Innocence Project helped exonerate Johnny Williams and Ronald Ross. It was actually the Northern California Innocence Project — which, it should be noted, is not a branch of the California Innocence Project but its own independent entity — that helped exonerate the men. In addition, it was a nine-year-old girl, not a six-year-old girl, who made the false ID that helped convict Williams. This version has been corrected.

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