The Line Up

At nearly 50, Texas leads the nation in the number of convictions overturned as a result of DNA evidence, where 80 percent of those wrongful convictions were, in part, the result of eyewitness misidentification. In the research project “The Influence of Perpetrator Distinctiveness on the Weapon-focus Effect and Simultaneous Versus Sequential Lineup Performance: An ROC Analysis,” Drs. Curt and Maria Carlson, assistant professors of psychology, have investigated the variables that affect the accuracy of eyewitness lineups, working to pinpoint ways lineups can be improved to increase the selection of guilty suspects over those who are innocent. In an experiment with more than 2,500 participants, the Carlsons have uniquely studied the intersection of the effects of the presence of a weapon, the distinctiveness of the perpetrator and how the lineups are presented. Thus far, the pair has found that the sequential lineup that shows each person one at a time and has been implemented in several states, including Texas, may not be more effective than the traditional simultaneous lineup that allows witnesses to view all members at once.

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