Eyewitness ID Expert Testimony Excluded: Abuse of Discretion Not To Allow but Harmless Error

The 2nd DCA held that Pinellas Circuit Judge Thane Covert abused his discretion in disallowing eyewitness ID expert testimony.  Opinion goes over a list of eyewitness circumstances that judges should look to that could impact a witness’s identification in determing whether this type of expert testimony should be admitted. Tampa Tribune: “Conviction stands in St. Pete double murder despite appeal”

Read Opinion, Jones v. State

Judge Covert granted the prosecution’s motion to exclude the eyewitness id expert testimony and is quoted in Jones v. State as stating:

“These are all common things.  We all understand how identifications occur in life and how memories are.  You don’t need an expert to tell you that.”

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente would probably beg to differ (Jones v. State):

“However, Justice Pariente noted in a concurring opinion that ‘expert testimony on eyewitness identification provides jurors with information that is beyond an average juror’s general knowledge.’  Justice Pariente noted that it is contrary to scientific authority and recent decisions of courts throughout this country to conclude that juries never require special knowledge or experience to weigh the reliability of an eyewitness identification.” 

The unreliability of eyewitness identification has contributed to major injustices in the United States-

Brenton Butler

Darryl Hunt

Larry Youngblood (Incredible injustice courtesy of our nation’s highest court

Youngblood v. Arizona – bad ruling)

to name just a few- 

According to the Innocence Project – in the first 325 DNA exonerations – 72% of the wrongful convictions were based on eyewitness misidentification.

Ultimately – the 2nd DCA properly held that the abuse of discretion was harmless.  Jones made a call to someone from the jail and admitted to having committed the murders.  The jail call was recorded, introduced at Jones’ trial,  and sealed his fate.

Moral of the story– there is sometimes more than meets the eye in eyewitness evidence and when you confess to a crime on a jail landline- remember – the government is recording.

Reaction?  FloridaYouJudge!

 
 
 

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