Legislation to impact line-up procedures

Randal County District Attorney, James Farren
Randal County District Attorney, James Farren

Elise Preston

AMARILLO, TX - A possible decision in Austin could soon change many verdicts in the courtroom.

The Eyewitness Identification bill, or Senate Bill 121, would require Texas law enforcement agencies to utilize a stricter, more uniform, method in using eyewitness identification.

Supporters of the bill, believe the system used in many law enforcement agencies now, leaves room for witnesses to be influenced by investigators.

Local attorney Jeff Blackburn, who wrote the bill, says this legislation would dramatically reduce the chance of false convictions.

"A cop in some podunk department can flash a Polaroid at someone and say 'That's the guy isn't it?' That's regarded as a legally sufficient eyewitness ID, now that's garbage. That's the kind of practice that put these men in prison for crimes they didn't commit." said Blackburn.

According to Blackburn, in the past 11 years, 41 people have been exonerated in Texas. 34 of those exonorees were victims of false identification.

Opponents of the bill say, 34 cases out of millions, is a small margin of error. The minuscule number, while unfortunate, does not warrant an entire change of a system that works.

"The chances of someone innocent being convicted in Texas is small. The chances of someone innocent serving time is even smaller. The chances of someone innocent serving a lot of time is even smaller." said Randal County District Attorney, James Farren.

Farren also tells NewsChannel 10, the proposed legislation suggests police officers would intentionally influence the outcome of a case. Senate Bill 121 has passed both senate and house committees. It now heads the full legislature for a vote.