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Eyewitness Identification Problems in Criminal Cases

lineup-150x150Are eyewitnesses always accurate in identifying alleged criminals? Recent studies have shown that in more than 75,000 eyewitness identifications, approximately 33% of the identifications were incorrect. Mistaken identifications have put thousands of Americans behind bars. There have been approximately 250 DNA exonerations in recent years. 200 of these convictions resulted from bad eyewitness identifications.

Eyewitnesses, who make statements similar to “the face of that criminal is something I will never forget”, are often wrong. Memories are fragile. Identification by witnesses of strangers is a very inexact science. The reliability of witness identifications are subject to questioning. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. wrote in a 1991 dissenting opinion regarding a study that convincingly showed “a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant and says, that’s the one!” has a major impact on the juries. A study by the American Psychological Association produced research that showed juries tend to give greater weight to eyewitness testimony than other types of evidence.

Supreme Court Reviewing the Issue of Eyewitness Testimony

The United States Supreme Court has recently taken a case involving issues concerning eyewitness testimony. Barry C. Scheck, who is the Director of the Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardoza’s School of Law located in New York, New York, stated the courts need a new “legal architecture” which judges can use in authenticated gatekeeping roles. He referred to a study submitted in a New Jersey court by a special master Jeffrey Gaulkin, which showed eyewitness identification should be treated “as a form of trace evidence: a fragment collected at the scene of the crime, like a fingerprint or blood smear, whose integrity and liability need to be monitored and assessed from the point of its recovery to its ultimate presentation at trial. This suggests judges should instruct juries about the limitations involved with eyewitness testimony. Hopefully the Supreme Court will set up a new set of guidelines dealing with the one in three mistakes made by eyewitnesses. Innocent men and women should not be convicted by victims and other witnesses who believe their eyewitness testimony is accurate, when in reality it is wrong in a third of all cases.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime or are under investigation for committing a crime, the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo can help you. We represent individuals charged with a variety of offenses including, but not limited to, white collar crimes, violent crimes, sex crimes, weapons possession, drunk driving (DWI), shoplifting, burglary, juvenile defenses, assault and battery, domestic violence, drug offensesand all types of felonies and misdemeanors. Call us should you have criminal problems. We can help you!

Miranda Warnings as Applied to Children

child-147x150How old must a child be before he or she can understand the Miranda warnings? The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of J.D.B. vs. North Carolina, dealt with this issue. The court, in this case, rendered a ruling that police must take a suspect’s age into consideration when evaluating whether to give the Miranda warnings before questioning the suspect about criminal activity.

The Miranda warnings are that the individual being interrogated has a right to remain silent, a right to counsel, that any statement may be used as evidence against him and, if he or she can’t afford an attorney, an attorney will be appointed.

The Facts of J.D.B. vs. North Carolina

J.D.B. was a thirteen-year-old seventh grader. He was found near the site of home break-ins. He was questioned by the police without receiving his Miranda warnings. He initially denied complicity in the criminal activity. In the end, he confessed. He was given his Miranda warnings after confessing.

The Supreme Court Decision

The United States Supreme Court rendered a decision that a suspect’s age should be taken into consideration to determine whether he is “in custody” for purposes of being entitled to receive the Miranda Warnings. In the majority decision, Justice Sotomayor states “it is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” She further stated, “a child’s age is far more than a chronological fact. It is a fact that generates common sense and conclusions and perceptions…we have observed that children generally are less mature and responsible than adults and that they often lack experience, perspective and judgment to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them”, and that they “are more vulnerable or susceptible to outside pressure then adults.”


Criminal Attorneys

Being charged with a crime can have a major impact on a person’s life. In these circumstances, you want experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense counsel to protect your rights. For more than 33 years, the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have provided criminal defense throughout the Metropolitan New York area for individuals charged with drug offenses, domestic violence, assault and battery, driving while intoxicated, juvenile defenses, shoplifting, burglary, weapons possession, sex crimes, white collar crimes, and all other types of misdemeanors and felonies. Our office is on call 24/7. We provide free consultations for all prospective clients.

Gun Laws Are Not Being Enforced

States are required under existing gun laws to maintain a registry of mentally ill people who are subject to background checks before they can purchase guns. According to the Associated Press, more than half of the states in this country are in violation of this Federal law. The deadline for complying with this law, which was enacted three years ago, was January of 2011. As of this date there are nine states that haven’t supplied even a single name to this Federal database. Seventeen other states have supplied less then twenty-five names to the Federal database. Gun dealers are still selling guns to mentally incompetent individuals due to the failure of states to comply with this statute.

The Federal database law for mentally ill people who seek to purchase guns was passed after the tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech. Gun control groups estimate that there should be more than one million people listed in this Federal database.

Sean Byrne, who is the current acting commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services in New York, stated, “if the mental health records are not current from our sister states, the quality of our background check is going to be compromised.” New York State has submitted more than one hundred thousand names to this Federal database of mentally ill individuals who should not be sold guns. Congress has allocated $1.3 billion to develop this federal database. Only a very small portion of these funds have been utilized.


Representative Gabriel Gifford

House of Representatives member Gabriel Gifford was an up and coming congress woman. On January 8, 2011, she was shot in the head in Tucson, Arizona. The gunman also killed six other individuals. They were shot by a mentally ill man. Had the federal gun laws mental illness database been appropriately maintained he would not have been able to purchase a gun. Jared Loughner was so mentally unstable that he was kicked out of the community college he attended.

Gun Safety Laws

In 2007, the United States Congress passed a law that prevented people with some mental illnesses from purchasing guns. This group of mentally ill individuals included those who had been considered dangerous to themselves and others. It also included individuals who had been involuntarily committed to mental institutions or judged not guilty by reason of incompetency or insanity relating to criminal prosecutions.

A national background check system was instituted under the Brady Law in 1993. In 2007, there was a massacre at Virginia Tech. A student by the name of Seung- Hui Cho shot thirty-two people to death and thereafter committed suicide. As a result of this incident, a statute was passed by Congress in 2007 that required states to submit records of mentally ill individuals or risk losing up to five-percent of the federal funding they receive to fight crime. Although Seung-Hui Cho was considered to be a danger to himself as a result of court hearings undertaken in 2005 and ordered to undergo out-patient mental health treatments, he was still capable of purchasing two handguns. Mr. Cho should have been barred from buying these weapons, but his records had never been forwarded to the federally sponsored gun background check system.

The following states have failed to submit any records of mentally deficient individuals to the mental health system: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota. The enabling statute creating the mental health database has penalty provisions, but these penalty provisions do not come into effect unto 2018.

Privacy Laws

In some states there are privacy laws that prevent the states from turning over individuals names to the mental health database. In these states, legislation must be passed by the state legislature to amend the states privacy laws to allow this information to be transmitted to the federal agency.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy

Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York (my congress woman) ran for Congress after her husband was murdered and her son paralyzed by a shooting that took place on the Long Island railroad in 1993. She has been a major advocate of gun control legislation in the United States. Guns should only be in the hands of responsible individuals. Carolyn McCarthy and other members of Congress have been fighting against the National Rifle Association which is a pro-gun lobby, to bring sensible gun laws to the United States of America.

handcuff-150x150Criminal Lawyers

Every individual charged with a crime in the United States is presumed innocent until proven guilty. At our law office, we represent individuals charged with violent crimes, white collar crimes, sex crimes, weapons possession and drunk driving (DWI). We also provide legal assistance to our clients charged with shoplifting, domestic violence cases, and all other types of misdemeanors and felonies. Call us should you need a dedicated criminal attorney. Our phones are monitored 24/7. We can be reached for a free consultation at 516-561-6645, 1-800-344-6431 or 718-350-2802.

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