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Letters: Police lineups that really work

September 21, 2012

Re "The case for 'blind' lineups," Opinion, Sept. 17

As Barry C. Scheck and Karen A. Newirth described, numerous studies have shown that using double-blind show-up procedures greatly reduce the risk of an erroneous identification.

Los Angeles County has had its share of wrongful convictions. So I am surprised that the district attorney's office persuaded the Los Angeles Police Department not to participate in a pilot project, recommended by the Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice to improve the reliability of the eyewitness procedures, out of a concern that other departments that failed to adopt this best practice would be criticized.

Chief Charlie Beck should rethink his position on this subject and remember that erroneous identifications continue to be the leading cause of wrongful convictions in every state.

Ronald L. Brown

Los Angeles

The writer is the public defender of Los Angeles County.

It's obvious that blind photo lineups should be used in crime investigations. Clearly, an officer with knowledge of a crime and a suspect could inadvertently affect the results.

A somewhat analogous situation exists in medicine. A double-blind study is the gold standard, in which no one — investigators, doctors or patients — knows which patients receive experimental or standard treatment until after the trial has ended, eliminating the chance for bias to influence results.

A question by a spokesman for the district attorney's office — "How many [cases] can you point to where it was shown that the police consciously or unconsciously influenced an eyewitness identification?" — demonstrates obtuseness, as there is no way to know how often this has happened. I suspect that it happens commonly, even among well-intentioned law enforcement personnel.

Gertrude E. Barden

Porter Ranch

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